UKZN’S NEW VICTOR DAITZ CHAIR IN HIV/TB RESEARCH

UKZN’S NEW VICTOR DAITZ CHAIR IN HIV/TB RESEARCH

The new Victor Daitz Chair in HIV/TB Research is Professor Thumbi Ndung'u, Director for UKZN's HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) and the Hasso Platner Research Laboratory.

Ndung’u is also the Head of the Max Planc Research Institute for Infection Biology and the South African Research Chair in Systems Biology of HIV/AIDS.

The announcement was made at a prestigious event held at the Medical School campus and attended by representatives of the Victor Daitz Foundation together with local and international scientists in HIV and TB research.

The Chair was named after the late Victor Daitz, a highly respected industrialist, entrepreneur and humanitarian who was regarded as ‘a man of insight, wisdom, knowledge and philanthropy’.

The Victor Daitz Foundation honours Daitz’s wish to give back to the community a major portion of the wealth he accumulated during his lifetime by operating as a private community chest. The Foundation is well known for making major contributions towards the charitable needs of all community groups in South Africa, with a significant portion of its funds directed towards the AIDS pandemic and the needs of historically disadvantaged groups.

Mr Brian Moshal, Managing Trustee of the Foundation, who made the announcement said: ‘The Victor Daitz Foundation is proud to welcome “this humble young man” given the fact that he uses his skill and ability in the prevention of HIV research, through conducting novel studies in vaccine development.’

Moshal said the Foundation was expecting great things from Ndung’u in the resuscitation of the information gateway. ‘We wish you a great success as will millions of HIV and TB patients.’

In his augural address Ndung’u proposed a rejuvenation of the R2.5 million Victor Daitz Information Gateway, based at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine. His plans include offering up-to-date access to top journals in HIV and TB biomedicine; recruitment of at least two senior investigators to bolster HIV and TB research at UKZN with an emphasis on student training and mentorship; the promotion of access to laboratory facilities by clinician scientists; community outreach programmes that are based on strategic initiatives; and open-access of publications to UKZN researchers.

Ndung’u reflected on the high HIV and TB prevalence, stating that the incidence of TB had been exacerbated by the HIV pandemic.

He said it was exciting that the Chair was funded by the Victor Daitz Foundation as this was in line with establishing KwaZulu-Natal as an epicentre for innovative research and expertise in HIV and TB locally.

‘Although antiretroviral treatment has significantly reduced morbidity and mortality, its drug development has taken place in Western countries, whereas the disease burden is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. We need to do more in preventing HIV infection right from the beginning.’

Ndung’u outlined the following as key research areas to be addressed in the new position: the lack of effective vaccines; poor or delayed diagnosis especially for TB; drug resistance; and limited drug pipeline and sustainability of current approaches. 

Ndung’u said the HPP had focused on vaccine development over the past few years, explaining that a vaccine as opposed to a therapeutic intervention can be given only once, and hopefully this would help individuals become immune to the disease for a long period of time; making the vaccine cost effective and easy to use in public health care. ‘That is why we have been very interested in the development of a vaccine. We do not have a vaccine as yet but we are working towards it.’

Ndung’u shared his vision to capacitate young scientists which he believes will make a huge contribution to the biomedical aspects of the TB/HIV syndemic. He said the Chair was well-nestled in the College of Health Sciences (CHS) as UKZN leadership supports knowledge generation and developing a new cadre of graduates.

Professor Rob Slotow, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the CHS, said the establishment of the Victor Daitz Chair in HIV Research in 2001 strengthened the message of health researchers based at UKZN to a community ravaged by the disease that: “AIDS can be beaten”. He said the College was proud of the significant contributions its academics had made in HIV/TB research.

‘We are also proud to host the Victor Daitz Chair and have full confidence in the new incumbent. We believe that the new Chair will play a leading role in improving teaching and scholarship at the University but also possesses the experience and expertise to tackle the burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa.’

Congratulatory remarks were made by Dr Dennis McKearin of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the United States, and Professor Hoosen Coovadia, Emeritus Victor Daitz Professor, who recognised Ndung’u as ‘a great human being and an extraordinary scientist’ whose array of accomplishments precedes him.

A toast to Ndung’u was made by Professor William Daniels, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, which the Chair falls under.


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

LAUNCH OF UKZN BOOK PROMOTING BILINGUALISM

LAUNCH OF UKZN BOOK PROMOTING BILINGUALISM

Amagalelo - a book containing a selection of the best short stories and poems entered for an isiZulu-English writing competition - was launched during the Time of the Writer festival on the Howard College campus.

The competition was sponsored by UKZN in partnership with Independent Newspapers with the book being published by UKZN Press

More than 350 entries were received for the competition from novice and experienced writers who had been invited to submit short stories, essays, reflections, poetry or pieces with a visual components, among other items.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, said at the launch that she was happy to see a book containing a selection of the best entries and promoting bilingualism published within a year after the competition was launched.

In the preface of the book Professor Vithal says that the project presented an invitation to write in an African Language in a way that captures ‘our changing world’ and to become part of creating and producing literature ‘by drawing into this exciting activity those who might not have considered such a possibility before’.

‘Through the publication of this collection of writing, the aim of contributing to literature in isiZulu has been achieved. The success of this project has shown the importance of creating spaces for people to express themselves creatively in their mother tongue, rather than in English.

‘This project has raised our awareness that language learning is a social and educational activity, which cannot be confined to language laboratories, and that there is an inescapable link between language growth and the communities in which the development of these languages takes place,’ said Vithal.

Mr Philani Mgwaba, the Editor of the Independent Newspapers' title, The Mercury, thanked UKZN -  and in particular Vithal – for running with the concept of a bilingual book and also congratulated the contributors.

He shared with the audience his disappointment that parents nowadays often failed to encourage their children to speak or study in their mother tongue. 

The judges - internationally renowned storyteller Gcina Mhlophe, Dr Nakanjani Sibiya, Professor Otto Nxumalo and Dr Gugu Mazibuko - were impressed by the exceptionally high standard of the entries. Although entrants varied greatly in terms of age and experience, a large number were in their teens.

Editor of the book, Dr Nakanjani Sibiya, said choosing the 20 submissions that were part of the final publication had not been an easy task because of the high quality of entries received. 

Sibiya said processes had been put in place at UKZN to ensure there was a successful  implementation of bilingualism and the development of African languages at the institution. The University Language Board was charged with implementing the University Language Policy and Plan. 

The three competition winners each received R10 000 in cash and an iPad. 

* The purpose of the competition was to promote bilingualism and in particular the use of isiZulu as envisaged in the University Language Policy and Plan; and   to contribute to creating a literature in isiZulu, and promote a culture of reading and writing in African languages among young people.


author email : shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

TIME OF THE WRITER OPENING NIGHT DRAWS GOOD CROWD

TIME OF THE WRITER OPENING NIGHT DRAWS GOOD CROWD

The 16th Time of the Writer festival, organised by UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts (CCA)enjoyed a successful opening night at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

Seventeen writers from South Africa, Africa and abroad – at the festival for a thought-provoking week of literary dialogue, exchange of ideas and stimulating discussion – were featured on the night.

All participating writers made brief presentations, while the newly appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, addressed the excited crowd, placing great emphasis on the importance of the Arts.

‘As in previous years, the focus of the Time of the Writer festival is on attracting local writers and  writers from other countries on the continent as well as those from other parts of the world,’ said Potgieter.

‘All the participants complement the festival’s aims and goals and essentially the ideology which drives the festival.

‘The festival reflects the mission and vision of the University which is to be the Premier University of African Scholarship. The College of Humanities is particularly proud to host and support this initiative and thanks all who have volunteered their time, interest and expertise to the 2013 Time of the Writer,’ said Potgieter.

A musical act by Zimbabwean band Tanga Pasi had the audience enthralled and an emotional tribute to the late Phyllis Naidoo took place on stage where excerpts from her selected works were read.

According to CCA project co-ordinator, Miss Tiny Mungwe, festival-goers could expect an exciting week of panel discussions with writers talking about their writing and the issues dealt with in their work.

In addition to nightly showcases, there was a broad range of day activities including seminars and workshops to promote a culture of reading, writing and creative expression. This included an educator’s forum with teachers on the implementation of literature in the classroom, the community writing forum with members of the public interested in literature, visits to schools, and a prison writing programme.

Book launches took place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre’s Wellington Tavern deck with the first launch of the festival being Amagalelo, a UKZN and Independent Newspapers sponsored book of stories in isiZulu and English by various authors.


author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

RESEARCHER INVOLVED IN RESULTS FROM THE PLANCK SPACE MISSION

RESEARCHER INVOLVED IN RESULTS FROM THE PLANCK SPACE MISSION

A University of KwaZulu-Natal scientist has played an integral research role in ground-breaking findings released in Paris recently about the composition and evolution of the universe.

The scientist is Dr Cynthia Chiang who is attached to UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit.

Chiang is among researchers world-wide who have analysed data gathered from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Planck international space observatory. 

Chiang said her work with the ESA mission began in 2009 when the  observatory was launched to map the cosmic microwave background – or the afterglow – of the Big Bang which is believed to have created the universe more than 13 billion years ago.

‘I analysed data – along with other scientists throughout the world – gathered from the high frequency instrument aboard the Planck observatory. This subset analysis is now complete and the results were released in Paris last week.

‘The analysis and research of data from the Planck mission continues and I am involved in this ongoing work,’ said Chiang.

The research focuses on exploring the history of the universe through precision measurements of the temperature and polarisation fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background.

According to a statement from ESA, Planck’s map of the cosmic microwave background over the sky is the best ever produced. By analysing it in detail, scientists have made important findings about the composition and evolution of the universe from its birth to the present day and beyond.

Chiang specialises in building millimetre-wavelength telescopes and analysing data, and her past research projects include a variety of ground, balloon and satellite-based telescopes.

She recently spent a year in Antarctica working as a scientist for the South Pole Telescope (SPT), a 10-metre telescope which has been observing the microwave sky since 2006 producing high resolution pictures of the early universe.

Chiang was previously a post-doctoral scholar in the physics department at the University of Chicago in the United States.


author email : gregdardagan@telkomsa.net

STUDY OF COMMUNITY-LEVEL RESOURCES FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN

STUDY OF COMMUNITY-LEVEL RESOURCES FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN

UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health (CRH) recently held a feedback session on the appraisal of community-level resources for women and children in four health districts of KwaZulu-Natal.

Funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), results from the five-month study were presented by Ms Ruth Mokoatle and Ms Nelly Khuzwayo from CRH, who said the intention was to describe current community systems reaching out to women and children in the districts.

‘The description of these services will contribute to the development of a plan of action for promoting and strengthening co-ordination of mother and child services or programmes between government institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or community-based organisations (CBOs) and faith-based organisations (FBOs).’

The researchers engaged with the provincial Department of Health (DoH), the Office of the Premier, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Advisory Council on Children (KPACC) and contact persons within the district municipalities. They said it was important to involve district co-ordinators, special programmes managers, mayoral members of the district and district municipal managers.

Although they set out to cover five districts, four districts were completed successfully.

Workshop participants provided a range of services to the communities including: soup kitchens, feeding schemes, provision of clothing programmes, home-based care, school support, life skills programmes, support groups for widows and people living with AIDS, family counselling, parenting skills and referral to the government Departments of Home Affairs and Social Development (DSD).

The study identified major gaps in sexual and reproductive health services such as family planning, HIV counselling and testing, preventing mother to child transmission of HIV, and post-exposure prophylaxis. In addition to reporting that pregnant women did not make early booking in district health facilities, the study found only a single men’s forum in health issues. They also found limited education and awareness strategies targeting community leaders in the districts.

Most organisations cited the province’s Operation Sukuma Sakhe (OSS) as an ideal co-ordinating structure for integrated service delivery, saying that participation remained a challenge.  OSS is a former flagship programme which seeks to institute food security, fight diseases, in particular HIV, AIDS and TB, and poverty, to empower women and youth, and to instil behavioural change among the citizens of the province.

Findings from the study showed that there were no standard resources available for women and children in the districts. One district already had a women and children forum for co-ordination of services while others did not. ‘In one district, there is an organisation which offers PMTCT services at community level in the form of awareness and  there seems to be a misconception about co-ordination of services versus organising an event,’ said the researchers

‘In some districts, organisations are empowered because they participate in national forums such as the South African National AIDS Council and the National Action Committee for Children Affected by HIV and AIDS.’

The researchers also found weak linkages between local government and the DoH.

‘From this exercise, it was evident that there is potential to do more at community level for provision of services for women and children with a particular focus on elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV provided there is  integrated planning between DoH, DSD, DBE and the communities.’


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

LOOKING FOR LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS

LOOKING FOR LIFE ON OTHER PLANETS

There seems to be billions of galaxies out of there, with billions of stars, with billions of planets, a visiting German astronomer told an audience at UKZN recently.

Dr Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, was addressing a full house on the subject of: Super-Earths and Life - Characterising Exoplanets.  The lecture was the final in a series organised by UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU) on the Westville campus.

‘For the first time in human history we are exploring other worlds, extrasolar planets orbiting stars other than our Sun,’ said Kaltenegger.  She explained that owing to the Kepler Mission, scientists had confirmed that other stars had planets – about 800 had been identified so far.

‘There seems to be billions of galaxies out there, with billions of stars, with billions of planets – this makes for a very exciting search. Our first discoveries shine a light on a fascinating gallery of extrasolar planets, from worlds with potentially permanent lava oceans on their surfaces, to planets with two Suns in their skies, and hot Jupiters, that only need days to orbit their Suns.’

Kaltenegger said some of these planets were orbiting in the habitable zone of their host star, where temperatures may be low enough for liquid water to exist. ‘If they host liquid water, these planets could be the first habitable worlds discovered.

‘We are looking for planets with the signatures of life – planets that are rocky like the earth, and are a distance similar to earth from their star.  Very simple life requires a certain temperature range, roughly between a maximum of 120 degrees Celsius and a minimum of 80 degrees Celsius.  If it is much hotter or colder, life as we know it cannot survive.’

Whether there was life in these worlds was an open question, but the fascinating search would be undertaken with the next generation of telescopes being built, including the James Webb telescope, which would be used to find signatures of life on planets already identified by the Kepler Mission.

Taking her audience on a tour of the closest extrasolar planets, Kaltenegger said astronomers looked for tell-tale signs for life and how these changed through a planet’s history. ‘We are closing in on reading the spectral fingerprint of these worlds - fingerprints that will let us search for tell-tale signs of life in these other worlds, like a detective on a crime scene.’

Kaltenegger explained how astrophysicists analysed the spectral fingerprints of exoplanets. ‘With the use of spectroscopy, we can break up the light waves that reach us from these planets and look at whether any colours of the spectrum are missing.  The missing light tells us what the planet’s atmosphere is made of.  We can tell whether it contains oxygen and methane.  Along with liquid water, the combination of oxygen with methane is the signature for life.’

Kaltenegger presented some interesting astronomical facts for the layperson including:

·         the diameter of the sun is equal to 100 earths placed next to each other

·         it would take 100 000 light years to traverse our galaxy

·         if our whole solar system was compared to the size of a cookie, then our sun would be the size of a sugar grain, and the closest star would be two football fields away.

Kaltenegger leads the research group on Super-Earths and Life at the Max Planck Institute and is also a research associate at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Boston, USA.  Among her many awards are the 2012 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize for Physics of Germany.

Whilst visiting UKZN as a guest of ACRU and the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, and the School of Chemistry and Physics, Kaltenegger visited local schools to share her love of astrophysics, including Glenwood Boys’ High School and Beaconwood Primary School. Several schools also attended the public lecture.


author email : frosts@ukzn.ac.za

CAMPAIGN TO GET A PAIR OF BLUE CRANES FOR MITCHELL PARK

CAMPAIGN TO GET A PAIR OF BLUE CRANES FOR MITCHELL PARK

The Chair of Durban’s Mitchell Park Trust, UKZN’s Dr Sanil Singh, has initiated a fund raising drive to buy a pair of blue cranes to replace the pair killed at the zoo recently by genets.

The blue crane - South Africa’s national bird - is endangered. Over the past two decades their numbers have dropped from 100 000 to between 20 000 and 25 000 with the majority residing in the Western Cape.

As a result, South Africa’s national bird is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red Data List of Threatened Species. Threats to the survival of blue cranes include illegal trade, power-line collisions, poisonings and habitat loss.

‘South Africa’s blue crane is prized as a symbol of royalty and only Zulu Kings are allowed to wear the feathers in their headdresses,’ said Singh, who is Head of UKZN’s Biomedical Resource Unit and also a registered Veterinarian.

‘Cranes are spectacular and graceful birds which have captivated people for millennia. The lifelong devotion demonstrated by mating pairs has resulted in them being symbols of peace, happiness and longevity.’

Singh recently met with King Goodwill Zwelithini to discuss the fund raising drive. The Mitchell Park Trust has pledged to keep the pair of birds at the zoo and donate its feathers to the Zulu king who has followed in the footsteps of King Shaka by wearing a head-feather from the Blue Crane.

There are also blue cranes resident at the King’s farm at Thokazi in Nongoma.

The cranes’ beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times.

In South Africa, the word for blue crane among the amaXhosa is indwe. When a man distinguished himself by deeds of valour, or any form of meritorious conduct, he was often decorated by a chief with the feathers of this bird.

In East Asia, the crane is a symbol of longevity.


author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

SCHOOL OF BUSINESS CREATES PLATFORM FOR ROBUST DEBATE

SCHOOL OF BUSINESS CREATES PLATFORM FOR ROBUST DEBATE

Representatives from the fields of politics, business, academia and civil society debated The Role of Politics in Business at the inaugural business forum hosted by the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L).

The Provincial MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, Mr Ravigasen Pillay; the Executive Chairman of ZICO Limited, Mr Sandile Zungu; UKZN academic and Political Analyst, Professor Pearl Sithole, and Bishop Rubin Phillip of the Anglican Diocese of Natal offered varying perspectives on the role of the different sectors in South Africa’s development and recognised the need for all sectors to work in unison.

About 250 guests comprising the University community and members of the public attended the event aimed at creating a platform for dialogue on a relevant societal concern.   Guests were welcomed by the Dean and the Head of the GSB&L, Professor Stephen Migiro.

‘The discussion forum plays a role in clarifying ambiguities and misconceptions on contemporary business and leadership issues; provide insights of the contemporary issues through the practical experiences of the discussion panel members, and enrich understanding of the business environment and its challenges to both our students and other stakeholders,’ said Migiro.

Chairing the panel discussion was an academic at the GSB&L and the Head of Leadership and Development at Nedbank, Dr Abdulla Kader.

Pillay’s perspective on the theme involved the need for business to invest in local development that was in line with the National Development Plan (NDP).  He also stressed the importance of business leaders working in partnership with government officials to eradicate corruption in the province which could impact negatively on infrastructural development.

With the province dedicating a budget of R1 billion towards human settlements Pillay indicated the importance for both businesses and government officials to ensure that transparent procurement processes were followed.

He also made a call to those businesses funding political parties to act with integrity and within regulatory frameworks, and not expect something in return from the parties.

Pillay said a new social compact between business, civil society, government and the media was required to move forward and address the numerous challenges.

According to Zungu, businesses should not concentrate on optimising profits but rather concern themselves with societal issues such as overcoming poverty, economic development and eradicating corruption.

‘Economic development shouldn’t be the responsibility of government only. Society should join forces to ban poverty and remove inequality. Business must be central in dealing with these challenges,’ said Zungu.

Zungu said poverty and other major challenges facing the province should be a collaborative effort of all social partners.  ‘We must not doubt each other but work together. UKZN must play a role in deepening our understanding in what we need to do.’

Phillip indicated that the current challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality existed because the political sector and business were left to their own devises, making it easy for corruption to occur between business and government.

‘In the long run capitalism as it is evolving isn’t sustainable against a principled politics. We can begin by exploring new ways of running our economy, to listen more than preach and take account of all people in society,’ said Phillip.

Phillip suggested the need for a collaborative approach between civil society, government and business in addressing the present challenges. This, he believes, will keep all role players accountable.

Sithole suggested that the business and political sectors take cognisance of the rest of society when conducting mutual activities. According to Sithole, an authoritative regime of business and politics was needed in the province to address socio-economic disparities.

She challenged the political sector to revisit its policies and balance its responsibilities to both business and its people.


author email : Maharajn20@ukzn.ac.za

COMPLEXITY AND BIOLOGY: TICK-BORNE DISEASE DYNAMICS

COMPLEXITY AND BIOLOGY:  TICK-BORNE DISEASE DYNAMICS

In an exciting and forward-thinking initiative, UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science successfully hosted the first in a series of interdisciplinary, international think tanks aimed at promoting interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research and collaboration in the mathematical and biological sciences.  

The topic for discussion for the first workshop was the humble tick.

The seed for the initiative was planted in July 2012, when UKZN hosted an NSF/NRF funded workshop focusing on BioMathematics, Quantitative Landscape Ecology and Environmental Sustainability in Africa.  This successful workshop brought together American and African students and researchers to explore the state of research, identify knowledge gaps and consider directions forward in BioMathematics, Biostatistics, Modeling and Environmental Science. 

As a next step, UKZN undertook the funding of several workshops to focus on future research topics and proposals. 

The Siyacabanga (isiZulu for: We think) Tick Workshop, brought together interested researchers and students to generate new connections and potential projects between international and African researchers. 

The workshop series is being organised by Professor Henry Mwambi, Academic Leader for Research in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, and Professor Greg Kiker of the University of Florida in the USA, whose Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering Faculty is affiliated with UKZN.

‘Our purpose is two-fold - to generate new and innovative research partnerships among South African and international participants; and to co-develop peer-reviewed publications for use in South African policy development,’ said Mwambi.

While each think tank aims to focus on a different topic, two cross-cutting themes have been identified to guide deliberations throughout the workshop series.

Firstly, participants are exploring biological and environmental dynamics as coupled to human and natural systems.

‘Consideration of any biological system should be in the context of its connections to the human world,’ said Mwambi.   ‘There is a need not only to understand system dynamics but also to develop mathematical and statistical models linking real data with analysis and inference in order to design effective intervention and management strategies.’

The second cross-cutting theme focuses on testing model complexity and relevance with global sensitivity and uncertainty analysis.  ‘Development of biological models must include the significant and often confounding effects of uncertainty, driver variation and algorithm sensitivity,’ Mwambi explained.

‘International research has developed tools and approaches for integrating uncertainty and sensitivity analysis early in the modeling process to help guide policy and research directions.’

Mwambi explained why tick-borne diseases in particular were the focus of the think tank.  ‘Outbreaks of tick-borne diseases have been increasing while research into tick biology and disease dynamics remains limited due to the complexity of both biological and epidemiological factors,’ he said.

‘The problem of emerging and re-emerging diseases from both previously controlled and new areas is an increasingly worrisome public and veterinary health challenge.  

‘Modeling tick biology and disease dynamics are challenging as these disease systems are less understood and have significant complicating elements.  There is a significant challenge in using models and parameters developed mainly from literature rather than local conditions.  Going beyond theoretical predictions and using models to explore competing hypotheses and environmental sensitivities can help in the design of future experiments and control strategies,’ said Mwambi.

‘In addition, understanding current and emerging routes of transmission is a fundamental part of the disease ecology.  Multiple hosts, diseases, and tick species have varying interactions producing uncertain temporal and spatial outbreaks that make efficient prevention and treatment a significant challenge. 

‘Combined field study and modeling approaches may be the best way forward in addressing local-scale dynamics with a view towards up-scaling to regional results for managers.  Managers could use this information to better target prevention and control efforts.’

Specific objectives of the Siyacabanga think tank were to review and integrate existing models and data on tick biology and disease prevalence for selected disease/host pathways;  to generate new and innovative research partnerships in tick-borne disease dynamics between UKZN and international partners; and to co-develop a peer-reviewed publication on the state of tick-borne disease modeling for selected human/livestock systems.

‘Our aim is to create new and novel combinations of local and external researchers to foster innovative thinking and carry this research area forward,’ said Mwambi.  ‘We hope to expand upon existing models developed by UKZN and international researchers in addition to co-developing new systems from a variety of disciplines ranging from biology, animal science, genetics, mathematics, statistics, computational biology and engineering.’ 

Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Kesh Govinder, explained that the workshop was part of the School’s strategic focus on Mathematical Biology and Biostatistics. ‘The aim is to bring together distinguished researchers in the mathematical sciences and life sciences in order to tackle real world biological problems affecting society. We have identified tick-borne diseases as a particular area of study given its impact on the health of South Africans and the South African economy.’

The Siyacabanga workshop kicked off with an exchange of ideas on vector-borne disease dynamics.  Participants presented their specialities to help clarify the current strengths and potential gaps in existing research knowledge and understanding about biological and disease systems; biological statistics; coupled human-natural systems; and biological modeling design, simulation and uncertainty analysis.  

After the formal presentations, participants broke into groups to discuss the way forward.  These focused on identifying gaps and opportunities in research, monitoring and application around the issue of tick borne disease; possible collaborative papers to set the stage for future partnerships; future institutional collaborations between American and South African universities in terms of course co-development and possible upper and graduate level workshops; and funding opportunities in the next 12 months.

International representatives included researchers from the University of Florida, the University of Richmond, Old Dominion University and the State University of New York (SUNY).

The workshop was opened by Acting DVC and Head of College, Professor Deo Jaganyi, who said he hoped the proceedings would create and enhance a multi-disciplinary research capacity within the College, which included both UKZN researchers and students, and international collaborators.


author email : frosts@ukzn.ac.za

INGXOXO-MPIKISWANO KWEZOBUHOLI KANYE NOKUTHUTHUKIS’ ABANT’ABASHA

INGXOXO-MPIKISWANO KWEZOBUHOLI KANYE NOKUTHUTHUKIS’ ABANT’ABASHA

UMnu. Sesethu Sidzimba, umfundi owenza iziqu zezamaBhizinisi aphinde futhi abe isikhulu esiphezulu kwi-Durban Chamber of Commerce kanye noMnu. Andrew Layman bebephakathi kwalabo obawongoti kulo mkhakha benikezela ngolwazi kanye nobuhlakani  kwingqungquthela yokuvula uhlelo olubizwa phecelezi – Activate eSikoleni soBuholi kanye namaBhizinisi.

Oka-Sidzimba unguMholi futhi wenhlangano i-ENACTUS- UKZN, ukhulume ngesihloko esithi:  Singazithuthukisa kanjani izindawo zokweseka abant’abasha ukubakhuthaza ngoshintsho?ngesikhathi oka-Layman yena oneziqu ze-M.A Khomesi, ethula isihloko esithi: iliphi iqhaza elibanjwe ezamabhizinisi ukweseka abaholi abasebancane abasafufusa? Abant’abasha bangabakha kanjani ubudlelwano kwezamabhizinisi na?

I-Activate inkundla yokuxhumana kwabaholi abasebancane eNingizimu Afrika abazinikele ekuthuthukiseni abant’abasha belizwe lonkana. Uhlelo lwe-Activate Exchange lwangamuva nje beluholwa phambili i-Activate ngenhloso yokuletha ndawonye labo abahamba phambili ukucobelela ngolwazi nangemibono yokuthuthukis’ intsha yase Ningizimu Afrika.

Inkulumo kaSidzimba ithinte izinto noma lokho okudingekayo ekwenzeni ngcono izinhlaka ezahlukene njengendlela yokuthuthukis’ intsha.  Uphakamise elokuthi izinhlangano zemiphakathi  zidinge ukuba zenze ngcono  ukukhuthaza uhwebo lamabhizinisi omphakathi.

Ushay’ikhwelo kosomabhizinisi kanye nezinhlangano ezithuthukisa wona amabhizinisi ukuba zizihlanganise kwinhlalo-mnotho kanye nasezindabeni eziphathelene nabant’abasha. Imibono  eyenziwe oka-Sindzimba ifake phakathi isidingo sokuthuthukisa amakhono ngokujwayelekile, ukuzihlanganisa  nezazimfundo ukusungula imisebenzi ezolekelela ukuthuthukisa umphakathi kanye nesidingo  sokuthuthukisa futhi kukhuliswe ubuholi emazingeni aphezulu.

USidzimba uthe, abaholi bentsha abakwazi ukusebenza esiqakaqakeni nje bebodwa kodwa bayadinga ukuthi bazihlanganise namabhizinisi, uhulumeni kanye nezinye izinhlangano ukufeza uguquko ekuthuthukisen’ intsha. Uphinde wahlongoza ukuthi izindlela zokubusa kumele zifakwe ngononina ukuqinisekisa ukuzinikela kwazo izinhlangano ukuthuthukisa izinhlelo zabant’abasha.

Ugcizelele ukubaluleka kwabaholi bentsha ukuba ‘bangene ekusunguleni kanye nasekuletheni izinhlobo ezintsha zezinhlangano ezizoseka ukuthuthikis’abant’abasha

Ingxoxo ka-Layman yona ibigxile ekwelulekeni abaholi abancane abasafufusa ngalokhu okulindelwe izinkampani kubona kanye nezindlela zobuholi obuhle.

Ngokuka Layman abant’abasha bazizwele ukuthi abakhuli ngesivinini futhi abanaso isineke sokuba abaholi. Ubeke wathi isipiliyoni noma ulwazi lwezamabhizinisi kanye nabaholi abasebancane kudingeka ukuthi  babekezele, ukwengeza kulokho, ezemfundo azibahlomisi ngendlela efanele ukuba bathathe imisebenzi yobuholi.    Uthe abantu abasezikhundleni eziphezulu bangakwazi ukuphatha imisebenzi kahle kakhulu kodwa bangakwazi ukuba abaholi abaqotho.

Onjani umholi oqotho? Sidinga ukubheka ukuthi umholi unombono futhi lokhu anakho akudlulisele kwabanye abantu abazokubamba njengezikhali zamaNtungwa.  “Ukusebenzela abanye abantu ikona okubalulekile kakhulu ebuholini”engeza oka-Layman.

Click here for English version



author email : maharajn20@ukzn.ac.za

FOCUS ON EASTERN CAPE ALUMNI

FOCUS ON EASTERN CAPE ALUMNI

The Alumni Relations Office co-ordinated two successful and well attended dinner events in the Eastern Cape providing Alumni Relations and UKZN Foundation staff to meet and renew relationships with a number of East London and Port Elizabeth-based alumni.

Alumni were provided with the opportunity to network, reminisce about their alma mater and get updates on developments taking place at the University.

UKZN speakers - Director of University Relations and Marketing, Mr Len Mzimela, and the President and Chair of Convocation, Mr Fanle Sibisi - provided informative and comprehensive overviews of the developments and projects at UKZN and encouraged graduates to participate in the affairs of the University.

Dean and Head of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership, Professor Stephen Migiro, also addressed the audiences outlining the various study programme options available within his School.

Guests were impressed with the content of each talk and the information contained in the information packs handed out.

The audiences represented a very real and encouraging picture of the demographic profile of the University.  They included graduates - from the 1940s to the most current - from the former Universities of Durban-Westville and Natal as well as the five campuses of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.  

Alumni appreciated the opportunity to receive updates on the University which reassured them of the international status of their own qualifications and provided them with the confidence and knowledge to recommend the University to family and friends.


author email : christensenf@ukzn.ac.za

IMAGINE DURBAN/UNITE POWER BREAKFAST

IMAGINE DURBAN/UNITE POWER BREAKFAST

Imagine Durban and UNITE hosted 2013’s first Power Breakfast at the School of Engineering building on the Howard College campus.

Mr Puvendra Akkiah, Senior Manager, Corporate Policy Unit at eThekwini Municipality, delivered an address on the eThekwini’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP).

The IDP – which provides rich opportunities for collaborative research between the UKZN and eThekwini Municipality - will guide development in Durban over the next couple of years incorporating such strategic objectives as sustainable economic development, a quality living environment, responsive local government and arts and heritage.

The Power Breakfast with its theme of: Food for the Body; Food for the Mind, is an initiative by UNITE in partnership with UKZN’s Development Foundation to provide a platform for networking, social outreach and professional development.

The lucky draw prize of a weekend for two, sponsored by Peermont Mondazur Hotel & Spa at San Lameer, was won by Mr Pravesh Moodley.


author email : kimmier@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN ALUMNUS NOW HIGH COURT JUDGE

UKZN ALUMNUS NOW HIGH COURT JUDGE

The Honourable Mr Justice P A Koen, one of UKZN’s successful law alumni, has made great strides in his legal career since graduating with an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree from the former University of Natal (UN) in Pietermaritzburg in 1982. 

Koen, who was admitted as an advocate at the Pietermaritzburg Bar 19 years ago, has served as a judge in the High Court of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, for the past seven years.

Koen first acquired a Bachelor of Commerce degree at UN in 1980 before developing an interest in the discipline of law which offered the opportunity to debate issues and exchange ideas… as well as being a stimulating career.

Serving on the Bench, Koen sees many advocates in action in his court room and finds the skills displayed by the current generation of legal professionals to be “fairly high”. However, he suggests that individuals enthusiastic for a career in law first pursue another degree followed by the LLB degree.

Koen feels this would be beneficial to prospective legal professionals because they would have a better perspective of the discipline and would be ‘slightly older and more mature people with more experience of mankind’ – skills and traits important to succeed in law.

Career milestones for Koen were earning Senior Counsel status in 1998 and his appointment to the bench in 2006. Koen says his career success is the result of ‘hard work and applying myself, and striving for justice and fairness’.

No single role model has influenced Koen’s success over the last 26 years, instead he has been inspired by several people from various branches of the legal profession who influenced his thinking.

Koen expressed satisfaction with the developments in the legal profession since South Africa became a democratic country 19 years ago. ‘Developments thus far have been positive and encouraging. Practitioners face huge challenges in harmonising our legal profession with the Constitution, Constitutional values and ideals, and it has all contributed to making our country a better democracy.’

He said he would like to see the legal profession become more accessible to the man on the street and simultaneously its independence, strengthened and improved.

Koen urged law students and graduates serving their articles to take on the existing challenges facing South African law and ensure that it (law) became accessible to the man on the street.

So far as career goals are concerned, Koen said: ‘Most judges cherish the hope of an appointment to a higher court. Being appointed to an Appeals Court or the Constitutional Court is a career goal any judge aspires to.’

When away from work, Koen who loves the outdoor life, enjoys camping and cycling. He is an avid reader who loves reading non-legal biographies and autobiographies in his spare time.


author email : maharajn20@ukzn.ac.za

TEN ENTREPRENEURS RECOGNISED AS CHAMPS

TEN ENTREPRENEURS RECOGNISED AS CHAMPS

Ten social entrepreneurs in KwaZulu-Natal have been recognised as the Local Economic Development (LED) Champions by the Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s (GSB&L) LED Programme for their contributions towards community and enterprise development.

They are: Mr Karabo Che Mokoape, the Co-Founder of Catalyx Consulting in Durban;  Ms Diane Gaskin, the General Manager of the Business Support Centre in Pietermaritzburg; Mr Brian Ligett, the Co-ordinator of the Network Action Group in Port Shepstone;  Mr Tshillo Farisani, a Community Developer for Ward 23 in Durban; Mr Mduduzi Gumede, Project Manager for the Ulwazi Learning Academy in Durban; Mr Trenley Tillbrook, the CEO of the Ilembe Chamber of Commerce in Ballito; Mr Sibusiso Dladla, the Director of the Mooi River Recycling Co-operative; Ms Nompumelelo Sokhela, the Managing Director of Iwundlu Project Management Services in Durban; Ms Mbali Zikala, President of Entrepreneurial Action Us (ENACTUS) at UKZN and Mr Malusi Mazibuko.

A launch celebration was held recently in their honour at the Makaranga Lodge in Kloof.

The LED Champs Project, a partnership between the GSB&L and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDT), awards individuals within the province who have driven empowerment initiatives in entrepreneurship, micro and small business and community development.

Recipients are awarded the LED Champ title for a year and benefit from several learning programmes conducted by the UKZN Extended Learning Unit (UEL).  During the course of the year the Champs are to remain within a Community of Practice - the community outreach initiatives the individual is a part of.

LED Champs are afforded the opportunity to share their ideas on business development support programmes which are registered by the UEL and rolled out around KwaZulu-Natal.

A call was made to UKZN students and alumni late last year to nominate suitable candidates who met the requisite criteria.

One of the Champs, Ms Sokhela, is honoured to be a participant of the programme. ‘I am confident that I will gain more knowledge, skills and my understanding will improve. But most importantly, I am looking forward to improving the way I work and view social settings, aligning individual vision and goals as well as sharing my vision and LED intervention outcomes with communities.’ 

Sokhela believes participation in the programme will clarify her role as a change agent who aims to make the best impact on local economic development in a sustained way.

Another Champ, Mr Ligget, believes the LED Champs programme is an exciting venture and finds it interesting that community organisations on the ground work together with the University in achieving social development goals.

Mr Ligget said his participation in the LED Champ programme would benefit the research interest that existed in his organisation. He was eager to see how the partnership between the LED programme at UKZN and his Group would improve the quality of the research in his organisation.


author email : maharajn2o@ukzn.ac.za

ADDRESS ON VICTIM OFFENDER DIALOGUE

ADDRESS ON VICTIM OFFENDER DIALOGUE

The advisor to the Minister of Correctional Services, Professor Musa Xulu, delivered a talk on the Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) to staff and students on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

The VOD programme is informed by the need to:

·        intensify outreach to victims and communities

·        profile and interact with victims of crime

·        give offenders a second chance

·        form broad partnerships around fighting crime and crime prevention.

The talk was titled: Building Communities through Effective Corrections: Towards Conceptualising Victim Offender Dialogues as Contributory Factors to Community Building.

This initiative was spearheaded by the Religion, Governance and Africa in the World Programme (RGAWP) in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at UKZN in partnership with the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).

The VOD programme is centred within the “Corrections is a societal responsibility” framework which aims to:

·       Strengthen the current rehabilitation and reintegration programmes of the DCS by placing the victim at the centre of the correctional process;

·       Ensure that the Victim-Offender Dialogues initiative is informed by a constitutional obligation that the offender is a citizen, a human being who has strayed from his or her path and must be assisted by the corrections system to rehabilitate and return to the path of good citizenship;

·       Steer society in the direction of good citizenship by keeping people from imprisonment through crime prevention. Good citizenship in this sense entails empowering the victim and assisting the offender to regain his/her self and get reintegrated into society.

Xulu said: ‘The implementation of the Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) programme will need the participation of various professionals in the programme’s value chain. It is expected that among others, social workers, psychologists, educators and spiritual care will play various roles in this regard.’

The Religion, Governance and Africa in the World Programme will offer a forum through which facilitators can be trained in the art of the victim-offender dialogue. This will become a part-time opportunity for those who may have an interest in being trained as VOD facilitators.


author email : bangimessage@gmail.com

FIRST YEARS LEARN ABOUT LIFE IN RES!

FIRST YEARS LEARN ABOUT LIFE IN RES!

Orientation for first years organised by Student Housing was held at the Westville campus to welcome and provide students with information about life in the residences.

Various speakers were on hand to give information about facilities available to students including representatives from Student Clinic Services, Risk Management Service, Disability and Wellness Centre, Alcohol Anonymous, Sport Union, HIV/AIDS Unit and the Student Representative Council.

Live music and poetry kept students engaged throughout the programme.

Ms Lerato Khoadi, Residence Life Co-ordinator, said: ‘It is the responsibility of the Residence Life team to make sure we create a positive environment for our residence students in terms of their academics and social life.’


author email : shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

Keyan G Tomaselli*

CCMS and children are synonymous.  One six year old, having quietly sat with his father through a complex two-hour Honours seminar on social theory in the early 1990s, was the only member of the class who responded to: ‘Any questions?’ Jethro’s hand shot up:  ‘Can I go to the toilet now?’   We’ve also married off a number of CCMS students to each other, and have hosted numerous sets of twins as students.  A young post-doctoral father currently brings his new baby to work and seminars to allow his wife, also a student, to catch up her sleep.   Our current audit environment, however, institutionalises “no children allowed”.

Being an academic is tough.  Being a parent in academia is tougher.  Meeting one’s performance management (PM) with babies in both arms is a real challenge, especially if both parents are academics.  PM does not mean premenstrual, but it may mean post-mortem, where academic parents are held to institutional productivity units irrespective of their being in the family way.  In the field, PM means parental managing of the kids while managing the students who are managing the research subjects and sites.

These thoughts occurred to me while on a field trip where a husband-and-wife team, with two toddlers and a group of students in tow, sought to meet their institutional “output” obligations.  Research continued as normal, but at personal expense to the family and a real strain on the household budget.  University budgets do not allow for childcare or transport of the children to be covered through research funds.

I and my wife Ruth, also an academic, once took our toddler to a massive jamboree in Botswana.  This mob of noisy, anti-apartheid and thoroughly disorganised cultural workers had nowhere for children to play while we adults were developing our cultural weapons of rolling mass action.  Children’s and parents needs were similarly not recognised by the resistance movement.  Back home we foolishly supported making the country ungovernable. What we now know from the South African rape, domestic abuse and crime stats is that a key social weapon is the stability of the family, socialisation enabled by intensive parenting, and being there for our offspring.

Later, from the age of 13 my daughter accompanied CCMS teams deep into the Kalahari where she over a 10-year period literally set the place alight research-wise.  Researcher-researched encounters change dramatically when teams include unconventional members who behave unconventionally.  Publications, thesis chapters and videos resulted, adding to the body of  knowledge relating to guest-host relations.

Boring factor analysis comes alive, regression analysis moves off the axis, and the variables can be manipulated to cause often surprising, even scientifically unexplainable, occurrences. 

These new “findings” (observations) expose flaws in old certainties, and predictable bureaucratic-led categorical ways of doing things. The ways that researchers manage their families while doing research have been discussed by only a few anthropologists.  So I suggested to the parents on the recent excursion that they might address the issue in a paper for a methodology journal, SAPSE accredited, of course.

The question is how to accommodate young parents who want to do research in the field, or away from home. How to justify the expense of children travelling and the re-oganisation of the working day/night, is enough to give any honest auditor a real headache.  The spreadsheet economy will revolt, and how to ensure that the costs incurred by travelling academics with regard to their children are legitimate may become a contentious issue for a postgraduate course in auditing.

I am also working with an Australian child psychologist on over-imitation and technical problem-solving amongst Aboriginal, San and urban preschoolers in the two countries.  What we have learned is that historically, indigenous children are treated as adults by their parents, learning through apprenticeship rather than via formal educational strategies that separate them from each other for most of the day.  The latter is the Cartesian, industrial way.  But our own conditions of service do not recognise the implications of this, even if babies are sometimes in the CCMS classrooms along with their parents and other adults.

The young parent-academic referred to above suggests that being a parent has made him into a better, more productive researcher and mentor. He’s now more engaged with his research, more empathetic to students, and a better manager of time. His students, he says, are desperate for work/life balance role models. Being there for your child is a good thing.

Responses to my September column, Of Bulls and Bears, speak also indirectly to the issue of where and how children learn. One parent wrote of his son doing electrical engineering elsewhere: ‘Don’t be surprised when engineers shock themselves to death.’ Professors in one medical school ask: ‘Would you knowingly consult a surgeon with a condoned pass?’  Intimidation of staff for failing students is taking its toll on some campuses, and I personally have refused to approve PhDs which arrive on my desk looking like badly formatted incoherent technical reports that lack research questions.  But they are passed by their home institutions anyway because, I am told, the other examiners’ assessments were positive. The bar for entry requirements is often set so low for both staff and students that promotion of students to the next level is the only way to meet the unrealistic “targets” set by management as they try to leverage state subsidy. Unlike the children of traditional indigenous communities who learn on the job, many students simply learn how to buck the system, irrespective of adult guidance.

So, why not start as young Jethro did at Honours level at the age of six, instead of wasting 12 grades and 12 years and three years of a Bachelors?  This youngster was the only one who had a question and a clear objective.  And, he was polite, fun and a real treat to have in class.  He intimidated no-one and I did not need a safe escort off campus after the seminar.  He’s now a high-end web designer.

*Keyan G Tomaselli is Director of The Centre for Communication, Media and Society.  His children have interfaced CCMS students and host communities as cultural intermediaries, and thus catalysed a new kind of interactive anthropology.

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


author email : TOMASELL@ukzn.ac.za