UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) has won a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA) award for outstanding contributions to food security in Africa.

The award was presented to ACCI Director, Professor Mark Laing, by the Chairperson of AGRA, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan, at a banquet in Arusha, Tanzania.

The banquet was part of AGRA’s biennial conference themed: “Scaling Investment and Innovation for Sustainable Agricultural Growth and Food Security”.

Among the high profile delegates were AGRA President, Mrs Jane Karuku;  Mrs Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;  Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr Gary Toennissen; President of Tanzania, Mr MJM Kikwete; and NEPAD CEO,  Dr IA Mayaki.

Presenting the award Anan said: ‘We have an unprecedented opportunity to realise the rich potential of the African continent and must build strong public and private partnerships to develop lasting solutions to global food security challenges.’

In a session on Building African Science and Technology Capacity for Agricultural Research, Laing presented a case study on the ACCI and its sister Centre, the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana in Accra, as models for postgraduate training in Africa. 

Laing highlighted the exceptionally rapid throughput of the ACCI graduates – 85 percent of the PhD students have graduated on time, whereas most PhD students take an extra two years - and the remarkable 100 percent retention of graduates in Africa, which contrasts with a historical 33 percent retention of students trained in the United States.

Laing said despite their success, the ACCI and other postgraduate training centres needed to secure a sustainable future, independent of external funding. ‘Whilst the ACCI and WACCI will train 150 PhD graduates in plant breeding, doubling the estimated number of active plant breeders in the region, the actual need is for at least 600 plant breeders, leaving a deficit of 50 percent and an annual need for 15 new plant breeders to replace retiring plant breeders.’

Operating since 2002, the ACCI has recruited 85 students from 13 African countries, and has already graduated 42 with PhD degrees in plant breeding. Currently there are 38 other PhD students in the ACCI programme, at different stages of their PhD degrees who will graduate over the next four years. At least 17 students will be recruited this year and in 2014.

Remarkably, 100 percent of the ACCI graduates have stayed in Africa, mostly to work on food crops in their home country. In most cases, this has been with ongoing funding from AGRA, which has allowed them to continue their PhD breeding programmes to the point of release of many new crop varieties, lines and hybrids.

The ACCI students are actively breeding 17 different African food security crops, including cereals, legumes, roots and tubers. So far, more than 66 new crop cultivars have been formally registered for release, with many more in the final testing stage before release.

The ACCI staff and students have published more than 85 scientific articles in international ISI-accredited journals. The eight academic staff of the ACCI constitute, perhaps the strongest grouping of active plant breeders in Africa.  Each has their own breeding programmes, working on food and biofuels crops.

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Professor Hongjun Xu, newly inaugurated Professor in Electronic Engineering at UKZN’s School of Engineering, presented his inaugural public lecture at Howard College under the title: “Detection Schemes for M-QAM Spatial Modulation”.

Xu, whose research interests lie in the field of digital and wireless communications and digital systems, said that future communications needed high data rate transmission, and that Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) had been considered as a technique.  Spatial modulation (SM) was a new MIMO transmission scheme proposed recently.

 ‘The basic idea behind SM is to map a block of information bits to both a modulated  -QAM/ -ary Phase Shift Keying ( -PSK) symbol and transmit antenna index,’ he said.

In his talk, Xu presented detection schemes for M-QAM spatial modulation.  These detection schemes included the maximum likelihood (ML) based optimal detection scheme; the suboptimal detection scheme; the signal vector based detection scheme; the multistage detection scheme; the simplified ML based optimal detection scheme; and simple low-complexity detection.

Xu received his BSc degree from the University of Guilin Technology, China, in 1984 and his MSc degree from the Institute of Telecontrol and Telemeasure in Shi Jian Zhuang, China, in 1989.  In 1995 he was awarded his PhD from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Beijing, China.

From 1997-2000 he was involved in postdoctoral research at the then University of Natal and at Inha University.  Over the past five years Xu has published more than 20 journal papers.

In introducing Xu, Acting DVC, Professor Deo Jaganyi, said: ‘An inaugural lecture is an important event in the life of a Professor and in the life of his or her university.  It gives new Professors the opportunity to locate themselves publicly in relation to new developments in their discipline and to articulate their visions for the future of that discipline.  I extend my warmest congratulations to Professor Xu on his promotion.’

Dean and Head of School for Engineering, Professor Cristina Trois, described Xu as ‘one of our most esteemed colleagues.’

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Professor Jacek Banasiak of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, was recently awarded the South African Mathematics Society (SAMS) medal for Research Excellence at a ceremony in Stellenbosch.  

The award was presented by Professor Louis Labuschagne, President of SAMS.

Dean and Head of School for Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science at UKZN, Professor Kesh Govinder, said:  ‘This is a great achievement and we congratulate Jacek on his award.  We are very proud of him!’

At the same Conference, UKZN postgraduate student Mr Yusuf Nyonyi won the prize for the best PhD student presentation. Nyonyi is a student in the Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU), under the supervision of Professors Sunil Maharaj and Kesh Govinder.  His paper discussed providing exact solutions to radiating and charged relativistic spheres using Lie's group theoretic approach.

SAMS was founded in 1957 with the advancement of mathematics in South Africa as its main objective. It currently has a membership of more than 200. The society is committed to high standards of excellence in the learning, teaching and research of the discipline and strives to explore the applications of mathematics in addressing the needs of the South African society.

The society's main activities include publication of the journal Quaestiones Mathematicae and Notices of the South African Mathematical Society. SAMS also represents the interests of the South African mathematics community on national and international structures.

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A postgraduate student in UKZN’s School of Life Sciences on the Pietermaritzburg campus, Mr Craig Widdows, is doing his MSc research project on how large spotted genets are expanding their range and adapting to urban environments.

Project Supervisor and Co-ordinator, Professor Colleen Downs explained that Widdows’ project aims to determine how large spotted genets are successfully using an urban environment and how they are subsequently increasing their numbers. In particular, she said that Widdows’ research focused on the home range and habitat use of the large spotted genet in urban Kloof and Hillcrest.

The genet research project is one of a cluster of research projects supervised by Downs, who is the Top Published Woman Researcher at UKZN.  She said multi-disciplinary postgraduate research projects focused on the impacts of changing land use, especially urbanisation, on biodiversity - particularly birds and small mammals.

As part of his research, Widdows is attaching radio chips to genets in the Kloof-Hillcrest area. ‘What I am aiming to do is to attach a 35g radio chip on the Genets,’ said Widdows. ‘These chips are in no way invasive and will not harm the individuals. These will allow us to track the movements of the genets by providing activity readings every 10 minutes for a period of 10 months. This will allow us to identify how they are surviving in the urban area.’

Widdows is also setting up cameras to aid his research. ‘When the individual walks past the sensor the camera will take a picture,’ he said. ‘These cameras come with an invisible black flash so their location won’t be visible.’

In addition to sensor chips and video footage, Widdows is looking for and examining the scats of large spotted genets to determine their diet.

In an effort to use the eyes and ears of local residents, Widdows has issued residents in the Hillcrest/Kloof area with data sheets.  ‘They will be able to record the genets they observe and indicate the time, habitat and behavioural observations of the animals. All this information will be included in my thesis,’ he said.

Besides large spotted genets, other projects being undertaken by postgraduate students under the supervision of Downs include research involve serval and feral cats; bats in rural and urban environments; and birds such as the hadeda ibis, trumpeter hornbill, rose-ringed parakeet, house sparrow, black sparrow-hawk and crowned eagle expanding their range in urban environments.

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Educational Leadership, Management and Policy (ELMP) staff members in the School of Education have published a book titled: Education Leadership, Management and Governance in South Africa.

This book, launched recently on the Edgewood campus, is a result of three years of collaboration between ELMP staff, postgraduate students and international scholars based in Higher Education Institutions.

The publication was edited by UKZN’s Professor Vitallis Chikoko and Professor Kenneth M Jorgensen of Aalborg University in Denmark.

The book has 11 thematic chapters covering five parts:  (i) Organisational Learning, (ii) Leadership and Management in Schools, (iii) Gender Issues in Leadership and Management of Schools, (iv) Policy Implementation and (v) School Governance.

According to one of the contributors, Dr Inba Naicker, the book will be useful to people in a variety of fields, including teachers, school managers, education officials, students, academics and researchers.

‘The book seeks to contribute knowledge to South Africa’s transformation agenda in terms of how education is led, managed and governed. It also examines how diversity can be promoted and celebrated in South African schools,’ he said.

The book is published by Nova Science publishers Inc. and is available from Adams Booksellers. The book, which costs around R1000, can also be bought directly from Mr Cedric Sissing (phone: 031-2612320).

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2012 is turning out to be a great research year for students in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, says Academic Leader for Higher Degrees and Research, Professor Henry Mwambi.

Mwambi was speaking after PhD student, Mr Yusuf Nyonyi, who is working under the joint supervision of Professor Kesh Govinder and Professor Sunil Maharaj, won first prize for his presentation at the South African Mathematics Society conference in Stellenbosch.

Said Nyonyi: ‘My presentation was about providing exact solutions to radiating and charged relativistic spheres using Lie's group theoretic approach.’

Nyonyi said he had received lots of questions and criticism during his talk.   ‘The award for the best PhD presentation therefore came as a surprise.  But the questions must have enabled me to put our ideas across fairly well.’

Nyonyi is a student in UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU). ‘It is really a great honour to be able to represent ACRU, the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science and the University of KwaZulu-Natal at such a meeting, and more importantly for my efforts to be acknowledged,’ said Nyonyi.

‘I am duly indebted to my supervisors for their guidance all through my postgraduate studies’

Nyonyi is not the only postgraduate student in the School to have his research acknowledged.  At the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s Postgraduate Research Day, Mr Oscar Ngesa, a PhD student in Statistics, won third prize for his oral presentation in the Mathematics stream of talks. The title of his talk was: “Bayesian Spatial Modelling of HIV Variation Among Counties in Kenya: A Closer Look at Women Data”.  Mr Ngesa’s Supervisor is Dr Thomas Achia with Professor Henry Mwambi as co-supervisor.

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UKZN’s Centre for Visual Art (CVA) recently paid tribute to the late art Professor, Juliet Armstrong, by staging an art exhibition at the Jack Heath Gallery titled: For Juliet. 

The exhibition featured an eclectic collection of art by current and past UKZN staff and students who were all touched by Armstrong in some way.  Each artist included a short statement about the art work and its symbolism, explaining how it resonated with Armstrong and her life.

Armstrong, who died in August following a serious illness, was a world-renowned ceramicist well known for her work in bone china.  For many years she was the only artist in South Africa working in this medium.  Examples of her work, for which she won numerous national awards, are on permanent exhibition in many prominent galleries around the country. 

A passion for empowering the women of South Africa, Armstrong, along with fellow academic, Professor Ian Calder, was instrumental in setting up a community engagement programme that has benefited women who create ceramic pots in the kwaMagwaza village, near Kranskop in KwaZulu-Natal.   Armstrong established contact with galleries around South Africa and abroad for this Zulu pottery to be displayed and traded. 

At the opening of the exhibition, Professor Anton van der Hoven spoke fondly of Armstrong whom he described as being many things to many people ranging from wife, lover and mother to colleague, teacher and mentor.  He said she was “nothing less than a force of nature” who touched the lives of all who came into contact with her. 

Former UKZN student and staff member, Mr Vulindledla Nyoni, explained how Armstrong was one of the first people to take him in and care for his well-being when he arrived as a student in Pietermaritzburg.  ‘I believe her interactions with me, the lessons I learnt, the fondness and respect for learning, inspired me to be the teacher I am today,’ he said. 

Current UKZN Lecturer, Mrs Faye Spencer, described Armstrong as ‘a friend and mentor - an incendiary flame in a vast and sometimes hostile world.  Her passion and enthusiasm for making and scrutinising what is made was infectious and inspiring… I believe her vision will be carried forward by the large community of artists she inspired’.

Some of the artworks on display included Ms Brigitte Bestel’s Three Jugs which she created in honour of Armstrong, who she said ‘taught me to pull a spout!’; Ms Kim Bagley’s Cow Tags – ‘A piece for Juliet, who always made her work for others’; and One in a Million by Ms Mhairi Pattenden which symbolised Armstrong’s character and powerful presence.

Another piece titled Cause and Effect by Rory Klopper, illustrated how simple actions create a reaction which sets off an undetermined series of events - ‘Juliet lived a vital life, her actions influenced people and communities,’ said Klopper. 

Other tributes to Armstrong included:

·    ‘Thank you Juliet for being the “fire”, living your life passionately and wholly.  As an artist and as a woman, I am forever grateful for the courage, conviction, wisdom, knowledge, and “fire” you shared with me,’ said Ms Nozipho Kunene. 

·    ‘Juliet inspired me to experiment with my work, always encouraging the pushing of boundaries and the development of self,’ said Ms Sharon Weaving. 

·    ‘Among many fond memories I have of Juliet, I am proud to have had the honour of watching her as she created her own masterpiece…her knowledge, talent and passion shaped and influenced my work and love of clay in immeasurable ways,’ said Ms Candice Vorovecz. 

·    ‘From Juliet I learnt the value and importance of engaging with art and design in my immediate context.  She helped me to stand up for my own work and encouraged me to pursue research at the highest level,’ said Ms Kim Bagley.

·    ‘May Juliet’s work and teachings continue to inspire 3D artists, whether they are working in traditional mediums or within the new technologies,’ said Mr Rob Mills. 

·    ‘Juliet was the centre of the ceramic department’s life; we revolved around her.  She was offbeat, full of exciting ideas and called a spade a spade.  She was inspiring’, said Ms Mhairi Pattenden.

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Winner of the 2012 Dusi Canoe Marathon and the Non-Stop Dusi, Andrew Birkett, is UKZN's Pietermaritzburg campus Sportsman of the Year.

The announcement was made at the 50th annual sports banquet held at the Victoria Country Club at which five full blues and 16 half blues were awarded.

Award-winners were selected by the University’s sports executive and sports officers.

The banquet featured a panel comprising former national and provincial sports representatives: South African rower Mr Doug Gouw, South African hockey player Ms Janet Edwards, Natal rugby player Mr Jimmy Mallett and South African soccer player Mr Steven Ngubane, who have each had a significant affiliation to the University through coaching, playing or administration. 

The sports personalities provided insightful stories of their experiences during their time at UKZN.

From 2013 onwards, UKZN campuses will have a combined event to honour and celebrate the achievements of the university's sportsmen and sportswomen.

Full blues were awarded to Darren Berriman (canoe polo); Andrew Birkett (canoeing), Robin James (hockey), Damian Kimfley (hockey) and Mick Gouweloos (squash).

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Aspiring surgeons, Mr Xolani Ntombela and Ms Nqobile Manzini, have impressed medical specialists and health scientists with their inspiring and high quality research studies presented at various educational forums.

Inspired by UKZN’s “Living Legend” and Head of the Department of Surgery, Professor Thandinkosi Madiba, both undergraduate students are making waves in the medical profession through their contribution to novel studies in the local context.

Ntombela, a third year medical student, has focused his research on the Clinicopathological Spectrum of Anal cancers in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

In July this year, Ntombela and Manzini, had the honour to present at the Surgical Research Society of Southern Africa’s Congress in Stellenbosch. Ntombela, then went on to present his study at the South African Gastroenterology Society Congress in August and was the only undergraduate student to be given this honour.

At the congress, he walked away with the second prize for his poster. Again in August, he presented at the College of Health Sciences Student’s Clinical Conference and won second prize for his presentation.

Ntombela’s study was a retrospective analysis of 130 patients treated for anal cancer at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital from 2004. The study focused on adenocarcinomas and squamous carcinomas.

During the period, 2004-2012, Ntombela reported that 13 of the patients had died.

Anal cancers affect all populations with squamous carcinomas recorded as being three times as prevalent as adenocarcinomas. Ntombela’s study also found that anal margin cancers were more common than anal canal cancers. He found that the proportion of patients with anal adenocarcinoma as higher than that reported in the literature.

Problems encountered are that patients presented at an advanced stage of the disease. Often patients resort to seeing a doctor only when they see excessive bleeding, the detection of a mass or constipation. Unfortunately this is too late in the stage of the disease. The other problem is that patients are often misdiagnosed with haemorrhoids, constipation and anal warts. So apart from the fact that patients seek medical assistance quite late resulting in a later diagnosis, often their initial diagnosis is incorrect.

From his study, Ntombela emphasizes the importance of early referral of patients with bowel symptoms to a specialist unit where a biopsy will be taken. He also suggests that medical professionals should not shy away from doing rectal examinations at the point of the consultation.

Ntombela and Manzini’s studies are currently being prepared for publication in one of the internationally recognised, peer-reviewed surgical journals. Ntombela continues to conduct research in anal cancers and hopes to come back to UKZN after qualifying as a medical doctor to specialize in colorectal cancer or gastrointestinal surgery.

Ntombela applied for many years to study medicine at UKZN. He said: ‘Despite being rejected for so many years, my passion for the field never abated. I’ve always wanted to specialize as a surgeon and now I am on my way to achieving this.’

Manzini, a final year medical student, also presented at the Surgical Research Society of Southern Africa’s Congress in Stellenbosch; at the UKZN College of Health Sciences Research Symposium and at the Pfizer-College of Health Sciences Young Health Scientists Research Symposium where she won first prize for her clinical research presentation. As a result of this she represented UKZN at the Pfizer-National Young Health Scientists Research Symposium in October this year.

Manzini’s study is on the Traumatic Retroperitoneal Hematoma (RPH): Factors Affecting the Outcome and is a retrospective analysis of data from the trauma database at the King Edward VIII Hospital from 1998-2004.  Of the 488 patients treated for abdominal trauma at King Edward VIII Hospital, 145 had RPH which is the accumulation of blood in the abdominal cavity behind the peritoneum.

The study found that the proportion of males presenting with RPH was 15 times higher than in females. Injuries were due to firearms (109), stabs (24) and blunt trauma (12). She also found that the kidney was the most commonly injured organ.

Manzini’s study is particularly important in that there is paucity of local studies on RPH. Said Manzini: ‘The successful management of post-traumatic retroperitoneal hematomas depends on following the prescribed management protocols as exploring a haematoma that does not require exploration may lead to uncontrollable bleeding and death. Decision-making on surgical intervention must be prompt and expeditious.’

Whilst serving her internship next year in Stanger hospital, Manzini will begin her second study on colorectal cancer. She hopes to return to UKZN to specialize in cardio-thoracic surgery.

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The population of crowned eagles - rated as the most powerful raptor in Africa – is on the decline yet in open spaces in the Durban/Pietermaritzburg region their numbers are stable.

Research around this is being undertaken by Mr Shane McPherson, an MSc student from UKZN’s School of Life Sciences in Pietermaritzburg.

‘This is by no means an easy undertaking,’ said McPherson. ‘The crowned eagles being studied have to be located and then juveniles carefully taken out of their nests to be ringed.  Then all their research data must be collected and collated.’

A crowned eagle pair being studied by McPherson live in Giba Gorge, a densely wooded area on the outskirts of Hillcrest.

McPherson explained the process of ringing the pair’s juvenile.  ‘Ornithologist Dr Mark Brown and I went to Giba Gorge to start the process of gathering all the data,’ he said.  ‘Our aim was to study an 11-week-old crowned eagle nesting high in a makaranga tree.’

After climbing up about 15 metres to the raptor’s nest, McPherson first set up the camera before very carefully lowering the juvenile bird to helpers on the ground. ‘The camera takes a photo of the nest every minute over a four-week period,’ explained McPherson. ‘These cameras are expensive but the information they collect is invaluable.’

Once the juvenile was on the ground the team quickly set to work collecting all the data they needed to get research going. This entailed weighing the young chick; measuring its wing span and length of beak; photographing the feather patterns; and ringing one of its legs.

With the juvenile eagle safely back in its nest, McPherson was confident they had successfully collected all the data needed to feed into his valuable research project.

McPherson’s Supervisor, UKZN’s Professor Colleen Downs, explained that the human-dominated landscapes of the Durban-Pietermaritzburg area sustained pairs of crowned eagles at a ‘relatively high density’. 

‘Research into this population is intended to investigate the novel circumstances presented regarding peri-urban breeding distribution, breeding productivity, diet, prey availability, and habitat use,’ said Downs.

Downs, who is the Top Published Female Researcher at UKZN, said McPherson’s research project was one of a cluster of multi-disciplinary postgraduate research projects under her supervision within the School of Life Sciences, focusing on the impacts of changing land use, especially urbanisation, on biodiversity (particularly birds and small mammals).

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Three PhD candidates and a lecturer from UKZN’s Discipline of Occupational and Environmental Health (DOEH) are hard at work on a four-month intensive research programme at the University of Michigan in the United States.

The UKZN representatives are among 10 PhD students and eight mid-level academics from five Southern African universities attending the programme after receiving a scholarship from the Southern African Millennium Promise Programme (MPP).

The Fogarty Programme in Occupational and Environmental Health, initiated in 1996 and sponsored by the Fogarty International Centre of the US National Institute of Health, provides research and training in chronic non-communicable occupational and environmental respiratory diseases.

The participants are taking part in a number of customised courses and auditing some of the regular courses.

Ms Pusetso Tseuoa, Programme Co-ordinator at UKZN’s DOEH, said the University’s students had told her they were making steady progress with their studies.

Ms Joy Kistnasamy is studying the interaction between social determinants and air pollution on childhood asthma, while Mr Robert Njee’s study involves assessing the reduction in indoor air pollution and respiratory health of asthmatic children in Tanzania.

Mr Joshua Matiko’s study is titled: “Evaluation of thoracic fraction inhalable dust exposure and obstructive lung disease (asthma and COPD) among workers before and after implementation of dust control measures in building construction industry in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania”.

Together with their Lecturer, Mr Nkosana Jafta, whose focus is on Childhood TB and its association with exposure to indoor air pollution, the group said attending the course was a life-changing experience.

Jafta is among senior scientists undergoing a parallel mentorship development programme to strengthen their mentoring and supervisory skills.

The UKZN team said they were fortunate to have the support of Professor Rajen Naidoo, Chief Specialist and Head of Discipline, who is also the Principal Investigator for the Millennium Promise Programme.

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Third year African Music and Dance student Mr Mfundiseni Ndwalane was recently awarded a bursary from the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) worth R18 000. He was one of two students from the country to be given the prestigious bursary.

Ndwalane was up against 18 candidates from nine South African universities who entered for the bursaries. They included students in jazz piano, trombone, trumpet and voice, African music, marimbas, drums, voice and dance, traditional bagpipes, Western art music, piano, voice and clarinet.

‘It is an honour to be recognised for my hard work, and receiving this bursary encourages me to continue to strive for excellence,’ said Ndwalane.

He expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the SAMRO Foundation for their generosity and for believing in him.

‘At home, everyone was happy; especially my mother because she is not working and couldn’t pay for my studies but this bursary now helps. Next year I am looking forward to doing my honours in applied ethnomusicology and this SAMRO bursary will help pay for some of my academic expenses.’

The bursaries are available annually to undergraduate students who specialise in music performance in traditional, jazz or Western art music genres.

Candidates for the bursaries are nominated by the Heads and relevant members of staff of music departments of South African institutions of Higher Education from among the ranks of their students.

The candidates are required to show merit in the field of performance in one or more of these genres. The winners are chosen by the Artistic Committee of the SAMRO Foundation which takes into consideration criteria such as the standard of performance, year of study and perceived financial need.

‘Music is the best tool to communicate with people around you and those people that you cannot see. And it also helps convey messages and raises a social awareness to the community. I think bursaries of this nature are important because they help students financially but also help keep music alive,’ said Ndwalane.

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A group of eight postgraduate students from UKZN’s School of Life Sciences recently attended the Pan African Ornithological Congress (PAOC) held in Arusha, Tanzania, with one winning a prestigious award. 

Competing against 160 other presenters from across Africa, PhD candidate, Ms Tiwonge Mzumara, received the prize for the best student oral presentation with her talk which re-assessed the conservation status of Malawi’s ‘endangered’ yellow-throated apalis.  In addition there were 61 poster presentations.

PAOC is held every four years and is one of only a few Pan African conferences dedicated to taxonomy.  The conference gives opportunities for those working on birds in Africa to meet and get an overview of current research and discuss possible important future areas of research. 

UKZN’s Professor Colleen Downs was Scientific Chair for the PAOC and organised collation of the abstracts and the programme.

The Conference highlighted that with a world human population of more than seven billion, there was increasing pressure on the environment with land transformation for urban sprawl, agriculture and biofuels continuing at high rates. The effects of accelerated climate change further exacerbate the situation.

Despite this there was a need to maximise biodiversity and sustain ecosystem function. 

Many of the presentations dealt with the effects of changing ecosystems, including savannah, forests and wetlands, and the effects of accelerated climate change on bird diversity and persistence in Africa.  Highlighted were the effects on the migration of avian species, and raptors and also the effects of changing land use and urban environments on bird diversity and survival.

There were also discussions on bird responses to ecosystem changes; monitoring change in bird populations and habitats in Africa; crane responses to ecosystem changes; human-wildlife conflict; African birds and climatic change; ethno-ornithology; drivers of change: climate versus habitat; drivers of change - a landscape approach to bird conservation; wetlands and waterbirds in a changing environment; continent-wide raptor conservation; conserving birds and biodiversity across landscapes in Africa; owls;  weavers, and life on the move.

Downs commented that with technological advances - particularly in global positioning system telemetry - the movement, spatial use and presence of birds in Africa were advancing and this was highlighted at the congress. In addition, the involvement of the general public in bird monitoring was discussed.

‘It was a great opportunity for UKZN students to showcase their work and to interact with researchers from around the world,’ said Downs.   ‘We thank the organisers, and look forward to the next PAOC in four years’ time.’

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 IThink Tank ibambe umhlangano wokuqala obuhanjelwe abafundisi abanikela isikhathi sabo kanye nabafundi bePhD abavela kumnyango wezoQhaqho e-UKZN, abanye babo baphethe izikhungo zabashile ezibhedlela eziseduze.

Inhloso yeThink Tank ukukhulisa ucwaningo ngokusha esifundazweni ukuze abadinga usizo baluthole oluhamba phambili. Lokhu futhi kuzosiza ukuba kuphonswe esivivaneni ucwaningo oluphezulu ukuze kusizakale abantu abashile.

‘Bekukuhlanganisa amakhanda kwabantu abahamba phambili esifundazweni uma kuziwa ekulapheni ukusha.  IThink Tank izohlangana kathathu ngonyaka iphinde yandise isibalo sabafundi abasemazingeni aphakeme e-UKZN, ngoba izinikele ukuthuthukisa impatho yeziguli ezishile,’ kusho uDkt Colleen -Aldous.

UDkt Nikki Allorto, ukunguyena owagqugquzela ukuqala kwendawo yabashile esibhedlela sase-Edendale nesikhwama iBurn Care Trust, uthe: ‘Ukuphathwa kwabantu abashile ibingabekwa phambili isikhathi eside.

‘Injongo yethu ukuthi sithuthukise ucwaningo kulo mkhakha, nokuzokwenza odokotela bawujabulele umsebenzi wabo.

‘Sizoyithuthukisa imiphumela yeziguli ezishile kusona sonke isifundazwe saseNingizimu Afrika. Ukusebenza ndawonye kwezifundazwe kuzokwenza ukuthi sikhiqize odokotela abazoba nogqozi lokusebenza kulo mkhakha,’ kusho u-Allorto

Izithameli ezintathu kulomhlangano zenza izifundo zePhD ekulapheni abantu abashile.

Uma ufuna ukuthola ulwazi, thintana no-Aldous

Click here for English Version

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The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (AES) hosted its Postgraduate Research Day on the Pietermaritzburg campus with the aim being to give masters and PhD students a platform to showcase their cutting-edge research activities.

Postgraduate students within the College had an opportunity to participate in the Research Day through poster and oral presentations, divided into a Life and Earth Sciences stream and a Maths stream.

The panel featured judges from the academic and industrial sectors. Judges from industry included representatives from Unilever, Technology Innovation Agency, CSIR and Eskom.

The performance of students made the task of the judges extremely difficult. Unilever Regional Skin Cleanse Research and Development Formulation Manager, Dr Barbara Lack, said: ‘I was extremely fortunate to have been one of the judges at this event. The work undertaken by the students is at an exceptional level. The experience has given me the chance to see future collaborative work between Unilever and the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, which I would like to facilitate.’

The event was well attended with over 250 students, staff and industrial visitors present.  Business Development Manager from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), Ms Nelisha Naidoo, said: ‘We hope that in future the TIA is given more opportunities to participate, collaborate and contribute to research work in the College of AES and even the University as a whole.’

The function ended with the awarding of the prizes sponsored by the University Research Office, Schools within the College, as well as the Technology Innovation Agency, Old Mutual, Unilever, Tongaat Hulett, SAPREF, Celtic Diagnostics, Inqaba Biotec and Lasec.

Prize winners in the Life and Earth Sciences oral presentation stream included Ms Sohana Singh, Mr Rhys McColl and Ms Leticia Mosina, whose winning paper was titled: “Screening, Characterization and Partial Purification of Phialophoraalbaxylanaseisozymes”.  The paper was supervised by Dr Roshini Govinden and Dr Bubuya Masola from the School of Life Sciences.

In the Maths oral presentation stream, Mr Oscar Ngeza, Mr Muhammed Ismail and Ms Yaseera Ismail were winners. Ms Ismail’s paper was on Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) through Entanglement, and was supervised by Professor Francesco Petruccione from the School of Chemistry and Physics.

Prizes for the Poster presentations were awarded to Mr Moses Ollengo, Mr Robert Krause and Mr Yatshamba Kubelwa, supervised by Dr Richard Loubser and Dr Konstantin Papailiou from the School of Engineering. The group’s winning poster was titled: “The Relationship between the Bending Amplitude and Bending Stress/Strain at the Mouth of a So-Called Square-Faced Clamp for Different Conductor Sizes and Different Tensile Loads: Experimental Approach”.

Prizes included sponsorship to attend an overseas conference, sponsorship to attend a national conference, and generous book vouchers

Research Day organiser, Dr Matthew Akerman, said he was pleased with the encouragement such an event gave to students at the College.

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UKZN’s School of Education is a partner in the Transformative Education/al Studies (TES) project recently awarded the Top University Research Initiative Award at the Durban University of Technology Annual Research Awards.

The TES project is an inter-institutional project involving researchers from the Durban University of Technology (DUT), Walter Sisulu University (WSU), UKZN and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

TES is funded by a three-year grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF). The project was initiated by Professor Joan Conolly who recently retired from DUT and is currently being headed by DUT’s Dr Liz Harrison, who is a UKZN PhD graduate. The other project leaders are Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa (HSRC), Professor Theresa Chisanga (WSU) and Dr Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan (UKZN).

‘The project aims to support academic staff members in Higher Education Institutions who are pursuing Masters and Doctoral degrees using the approach of self-study of educational practice. Another key focus of the project is on developing supervisor expertise in the area of self-study of educational practice,’ explained Pithouse-Morgan.

The project participants are 22 university educators who are undertaking postgraduate self-study research and their 13 supervisors. A diversity of academic and professional disciplines is represented, including Academic Development, Clothing and Fashion Design, Drama Education, Educational Leadership and Management, English Language Studies, Mathematics Education, Photography, and Teacher Development Studies.

‘We are in the second year of this three-year project. TES project activities so far have included twice-yearly inter-institutional workshops facilitated by international self-study experts, regular research support meetings at the individual institutions, presentation and publication of collaborative papers, and participation in online classrooms and list-serves. For 2013, we are also planning a TES project exhibition,’ said Pithouse-Morgan.

Findings from the first two years of this three-year project suggest that student and supervisor involvement in an inter-institutional, trans-disciplinary learning community of self-study researchers has provided a generative alternative to the more traditional one-to-one model of supervision that has been prevalent in many South African Higher Education Institutions.

Another key discovery is that supervisors have reported greater enthusiasm and self-motivation among their students who are undertaking research through the TES project as compared with those that are not involved in the project.

‘Linked to this is that students and supervisors have highlighted that they have enjoyed being exposed to a range of innovative and creative research methods through the TES workshops and other TES activities and that they have found these methods helpful in their research and in their educational practice,’ Pithouse-Morgan said.

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A conference held at UKZN recently provided a platform for academics, practitioners and post-graduate students to deliberate on service delivery issues affecting the country and beyond.

A total of 66 papers were presented at the annual conference of the Association of Southern African Schools and Departments of Public Administration and Management (ASSADPAM) from 31 October 2012- 1 November 2012 hosted by the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance.

The theme of the Conference was: Effective Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation for Good Governance, and papers reflected a diverse range of interests in the public administration, management and governance.

According to the Conference Convenor, Professor Yogi Penceliah, the aim of the gathering was to promote the theory and practice as well as the knowledge base of public administration, management and governance nationally, regionally and globally.

‘The Organising Team and I were delighted that the Discipline: Public Governance had the opportunity to host the Conference and to provide a platform to discuss, debate, share ideas and network on various issues related to Public Administration, Management and Governance  in South Africa and beyond,  with Monitoring and Evaluation being high on the agenda,’ said Penceliah.

Spokesperson for the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Performance Monitoring, Evaluation, Administration in the Presidency, Mr Harold Maloka, delivered the keynote address on behalf of Minister Collins Chabane.

‘Higher Education Institutions, like UKZN occupy a special place in society.  These institutions are credited as the generators of new knowledge and skills that help sustain the knowledge capital of our society.

‘We should also work together, maybe starting by ensuring that evaluators of public sector initiatives can meet certain minimum professional standards and competencies,’ said Maloka.

UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor Nelson Ijumba, said the Conference was a strategic initiative that responded to the University’s goals of pre-imminence in research, excellence in teaching and learning and responsible community outreach. He urged participants to network and discuss (es) areas of public administration with the purpose of collaborative research.

The Conference was preceded by a Research Workshop from 29-30 October 2012 for emerging researchers who are members of ASSADPAM.

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‘My mother used to say that with the best education there is literally nothing I could not be - if I could imagine it in my mind then I could be it, in reality.  I am a big supporter of education especially educating young African girls because if you educate a girl the whole community benefits.’

These are the words of Ms Zamambo Mkhize who is Academic Development Officer (ADO) for the School of Social Sciences where she has fitted into the role perfectly while still managing to pursue her PhD.

‘It is an interesting job because it is the perfect position to be in especially because I have always been interested in helping students.  As a tutor there is only so much I could do to helping struggling “at risk” students but in my position as ADO I have more resources at my disposal and can help students more substantially,’ said Mkhize.

Mkhize was fortunate to have been awarded a full tennis scholarship to Florida University in the United States where she studied Criminal Justice for four years and graduated magna cum laude.  She then came back home and got her Honours in criminology at UKZN.

‘I was going to get my postgraduate degree in law but somehow fate intervened and I discovered my true passion is gender studies. I had no idea a raging feminist was lying dormant inside me waiting to be unleashed.  I then got my Masters in Gender Studies and now am doing my PhD in it as well.  I have always wanted a wide range of degrees because my biggest fear in life is boredom, so I always thought that if I got bored in one career, I am qualified for another and another.

‘I want to get my PhD before the age of thirty and to be a lecturer at the University.  I also want to be involved in government in the field of women, children and people with disabilities because I feel they have so much potential to really make a difference.’

She also hopes to one day open a shelter for women and children in abused relationships. This stemmed from her on-going PhD research on: Polygyny and gender: Narratives of professional Zulu women in peri-urban areas of contemporary KwaZulu-Natal.

‘As a feminist I hope my research will make society as a whole take notice of the plight of women, especially African women who are still to this day enslaved by their communities and culture and there is no end in sight.’

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UKZN alumnus Mr Sanele Dlamini attributes his impressive career growth to the skills he acquired while doing his Masters of Business degree at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership.

Shortly after graduating with his MBA in 2010, Dlamini - who also holds a Bachelor of Pedagogics in Science from UKZN - secured the position of Director Executive Support in the Department of Water Affairs, a position he was adequately prepared for through his business degree.

‘I am currently a Senior Manager but I intend to be an executive in the near future and manage a big budget and make a meaningful contribution to the economy of our country.’

Dlamini says the MBA programme’s wide scope gave him the understanding of management principles which are vital in his current position in the public sector.

‘The MBA programme at UKZN is particularly interesting because it is practical and lecturers bring real life situations into the lecture room and also allow students to share their experiences,’ said Dlamini.

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