Final-year student in the MBChB Programme, Ms Reshania Naidoo, is on the road to becoming a seasoned TB researcher after being invited to do oral presentations for high powered international audiences.

The 22-year-old will present her findings from research completed over and above her final year undergraduate studies to expert clinicians, academics, civil society representatives, government and other delegates at the South African AIDS Conference in Durban next month.

Her biggest accomplishment thus far was an invitation to do an oral presentation at the 43rd World Union Conference on Lung Health and Tuberculosis in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in November last year. Her study was chosen as one of 100 out of 1 500 submissions to be presented at the Conference.

The study was conducted under the mentorship and supervision of Dr Nesri Padayatchi, Deputy Director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and in association with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York where they assessed treatment outcomes using Clofazimine, a third-line TB drug, in patients with XDR-TB.

Naidoo reported that after six months of treatment, 90 percent of patients in their cohort had become culture negative - a world-first which will impact significantly on the approach towards treating drug-resistant TB.

Naidoo said: ‘Multi-drug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) are one of the biggest healthcare challenges facing our country today and present a unique challenge to us as South Africans as up to 80 percent of these patients have co-existing HIV infection.

‘We need to find novel ways of treating patients with drug-resistant TB as our current regimens are failing and fatalities are on the increase, especially within our setting of HIV/AIDS. More importantly we also need to find ways of shortening treatment duration as this poses one of the biggest difficulties to our patients due to side-effects among many other reasons.’

Naidoo joined CAPRISA as a third-year research placement and thanks to the support from her mentor she has already established herself in TB research.

Naidoo said presenting at the Union Conference was an eye-opener for her in terms of the world of research. ‘It was actually beyond my wildest dreams to present on an international stage. It was a daunting task being the only undergraduate there but it was the experience of a lifetime. I also got to meet some of the biggest international names in TB so that was great!’

Naidoo acknowledged UKZN’s College of Health Sciences for sponsoring her trip to Malaysia saying she came back with new ideas and was even more inspired for her future as a doctor. She says that she will always be a clinician at heart and loves internal medicine but realises the huge global difference that research can make and will continue to pursue research in the field of TB.

She said her biggest inspiration had been her father, Dr Kantharuben Naidoo, Principal Specialist and Acting Head of the discipline of Family Medicine at UKZN. ‘He is my role model as a doctor. I really owe a lot of my achievements to my parents and thank them for their support.’

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Deputy Minister of Communications, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, emphasised the importance of education during her keynote address at the 2013 Convocation AGM and Awards ceremony at the Graduate School of Business Auditorium on the Westville campus.

Every year, the Convocation Executive (Convex) hosts the event in celebration of the high calibre of graduates the University has produced.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, Ndabeni-Abrahams said: ‘Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.’

Ndabeni-Abrahams asked alumni to get involved in policy-making and also encouraged students to pursue careers in ICT, stressing the importance of mathematics and science at high school level.

In the President of Convocation report, Mr Fanle Sibisi acknowledged his fellow member of Convex Mr Sammy Mashita for donating a very generous R100 000 to the Alumni Bursary Fund.

Mashita committed to making it an annual donation for as long as he was able to and encouraged other alumni to follow suit with a contribution of any size.

With more than 150 000 members, UKZN’s Convocation is the largest constituency of the University.

Ms Bridget McBean, Executive Director: UKZN Foundation, invited alumni to contact the Foundation and urged them to look at how they could make a difference.

The Chair of Council, Mrs Phumla Mnganga, acknowledged Convex for their vibrant and very visible commitment to the University. She challenged them to articulate the Vision and Mission of the University and suggested they align their projects and programmes with the strategic vision of the University.

Following the AGM, Convocation awards were given to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (in absentia) and Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim.

Gordhan was acknowledged for his ‘passion about democracy, racial and gender equality, and working to build a prosperous future for all South Africans’.

Abdool Karim was given the award in recognition of her contributions to science broadly and for the stellar efforts she has made in the fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic. In her acceptance speech, she said: ‘As we reflect on successes, I hope that we can look at how to achieve the goal of an HIV free generation sooner, rather than later.’

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UKZN celebrated the academic achievements of student leaders at a celebratory lunch held on the Howard College campus.

Executive Director: Student Services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, said the event was held to recognise, highlight, honour and celebrate the academic achievements of UKZN’s student leaders. He applauded the students for achieving their academic goals while serving in various leadership capacities at the University. ‘They are bucking the trend of student leaders who often become career students. Our own student leaders are a different breed. You have led by example,’ said Chalufu.

He said students now had a much bigger role to play in life generally. ‘Beyond your graduation, you need to play a critical role in providing leadership to other students. To those who are working – it is critical that you become part of our efforts in empowering our students. Also, empower and mentor young people in your own communities.’

Chalufu expressed gratitude to staff members, particularly Mrs Priscilla Cele and Ms Nokwanda Jali, within his office who had played a role in these young student leaders’ lives.

DVC: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal, said top performing students excelled because they read a lot. She planned to start a campaign on promoting reading soon and asked the student leaders to get involved in the project.

Vithal added UKZN was now the first university in South Africa to require competence in an African language before a degree was awarded. This announcement was welcomed by the student leaders.

Executive Director: Physical Planning and Operations, Mr Charles Poole, supported and underscored the comments by Chalufu and Vithal. Having once been a student leader himself, Poole was able to relay the value it had added to his own life and career. ‘The benefits you accrue as a student leader will become apparent as you go along.’

The Registrar at UKZN, Professor Jane Meyerowitz, was unable to attend the event but sent the following congratulatory message: ‘A good leader is one who, in addition to leading and inspiring can also achieve a balance in their personal lives – and you have shown you can do that by succeeding academically while coping with all the other demands put upon you, chief of which is service to others. And so I salute and congratulate you all.’

The Central SRC President, Mr Nelson Mabusela, who is currently completing his Honours in Medical Science, commended his fellow students for being both students and leaders. ‘We are both students and a leaders … we are the cream of the crop and we should celebrate it.’

Mabusela thanked Chalufu for affording students respect during negotiations and at meetings, and acknowledged the Student Governance and Leadership Development Officers.

The HIV/AIDS Programme Co-ordinator, Ms Nomonde Magantolo, said in closing: ‘The SRC plays an important role in student life – academically and socially. This group has demonstrated that they can lead a balanced life. To succeed, work hard and sacrifice. Hard work is the key to success. Thank you for being able to balance your life and assist other students.’ 

Click here for a list of the student leaders honoured at the event:

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Uhlelo lwesandulela ngculazi kanye neNgculazi uqobo - HIV/AIDS e-UKZN ophikweni lase-Edgewood kamuva nje benze lokho esithi phecelezi – campaign ebihlose ukuthi ifundise umphakathi weNyuvesi  mayelana nodlame oluqondiswe kwezobulili kanye nodlame kulabo abanobudlelwano.

Uhlelo lusebenzisana ngokubambisana nabafundisi babant’abasha baqoqele ndawonye izithameli ukuba nazo zidlale indima ebalulekile ekuthuthukiseni phambili kanye nasekuhlonipheni amalungelo abany’abantu, ukulwa nokucwaswa kanye nodlalme olubhekiswe kwezobulili.

Uhlelo lwaqaleka nje ngokuthi lube ingxoxo-mpikiswano phakathi kwabafundi ekutheni engabe uHulumeni wenza okwanele yini ekuqwashiseni nge-HIV/ AIDS kwezobulili. Labo abamele  ongqingili, phecelezi – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) nabo bawavikelile amalungelo abo besho nokusho ukuthi bafuna ukuthi umphakathi ubaphathe kanjani.

Enkulumeni yakhe yokwamukela, uNksz Pinky Mnyaka utshele izethameli ukuthi wonke umuntu unelungelo lokuhlonishwa, lokulalelwa, nokulingana kanye nokuzwana omunye nomunye. Ubakhumbuze ukuthi labo esithi bawongqingili nabo banendima enkulu abayidlalayo emphakathini ngalokho bayadinga ukuba bahlonishwe. 

Ezinye zezikhulumi esingabala kuzo labo abaqhamuka kwi-iCap, umtholampilo wesikhungo –Asiphile Clinic kanye nabafundi abakhulume ngalokhu abahlangabezana nakho ezindaweni zabo zokuhlala baphinde banandisa kulo mcimbi. Ezikaqedisizungu ezifana nezinkondlo, amaculo kanye nezase shashalazini.

UNkk Portia Greehy uthe, inhlangano i-iCap, ihlose ukuba ifundise abesilisa abenza ucansi nabanye besilisa kodwa abangasibo ongqingili mayelana nesandulela ngculazi kanye nokwenza ucansi oluphephile. Uchaze lolu hlobo lomuntu njengalowo oshadile onabantwana kodwa ngasese azimbandakanye ebudlelwaneni nabanye besilisa bezitika ngocansi ikakhulukazi ebusuku.

UNksz Nana Dlamini, ongumfundi uqaphelise ozakwabo ngokulala nobaba abadala ukuze bathole imali kanye nobungozi bokusuleleka ngezifo zocansi phecelezi - STI.

uNksz Londeka Xulu naye oqhamuka kwi-iCap ukhulume ngokwesaba okungaba inzondo  kulabo abawo ngqingili engaholela kudlame olunenzondo. Ukhele phezulu ngezigameko  ezenzekayo mihla namalanga ezweni esingabala kuzo  ukudlwengulwa, ukulinyazwa kanye nokubulawa okuphambene nobungqingili. ‘masilwe ndawonye nodlame oluyinzondo njengabahlali baseMzansi  kusho oka Xulu.

Eminye imisebenzi ehlinzekwa iNyuvesi  ihlanganisa ukuhlelwa komndeni kubona bobabili abesilisa nabesifazane kanye kokusokwa kwabesilisa. 

Click here for English version

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Research has a critical role to play in the advancement of anaesthetics and saving lives, says UKZN’s Dr Kim de Vasconcellos.

De Vasconcellos is a Specialist Anaesthetist at King Edward VIII Hospital and one of 10 UKZN academics who presented at the 5th All Africa Anaesthesia Congress held in Cairo, Egypt.

Recommended as a speaker by Dr Dean Gopalan, Head of UKZN’s Anaesthetics Department and sponsored by College of Health Sciences’ Mary Weston Fund to attend the Conference, de Vasconcellos delivered three oral presentations which highlighted recent research on Intensive Care Unit-related (ICU) topics.

One of de Vasconcellos’ talks was on the affects of hyperchloraemia – the electrolyte imbalance indicated by abnormally high levels of chloride in the blood – on the body at ICU level. He said patients who come into the ICU after bleeding or losing a lot of fluids to other causes often needed fluid resuscitation. According to de Vasconcellos, some resuscitation fluids such as “normal” saline contained high levels of chloride. 

He said evidence, specifically looking at the kidney, supported the finding that normal saline causes hyperchloraemia which can result in organ dysfunction such as renal failure. He said normal saline was commonly used in Africa and although it had a fairly subtle effect, alternative fluids should be considered when resuscitating patients.

De Vasconcellos also presented research which confirmed that doctors could possibly reduce the mortality of high risk surgical patients if they aimed for supranormal targets in perioperative haemodynamic optimization.

He said there was a school of thought which proposed that in high risk patients admitted for major surgery, the standard haemodynamic parameters, such as a cardiac output of “five litres-per-minute”, were not adequate to meet the needs of the surgical patient.

‘What some researchers have done is to identify these kinds of patients and put them on various medications which enhanced their cardiac output and potentially drove their circulation to higher than normal targets. They found that they could reduce mortality by aiming at the supranormal targets.

‘It’s a controversial field but recently we’ve had new cardiac output monitors that allow us to do it a lot less invasively.’

De Vasconcellos said there was a new interest in the field. ‘I know that resources are constrained but this is a possible future trend that anaesthetists around the world need to watch. There is even a potential cost-saving in it if you can reduce complications; which it appears to do in the right setting.’

De Vasconcellos’ final presentation was titled: “The Role of Neuromuscular Blockade in Modern Intensive Care”. He said muscular relaxants were previously overused in the ICU and this had risks and side-effects associated with it, hence most academics banned their long-term use in the ICU.

‘What is new is that in very specific patients with severe lung injury, using muscle relaxants for 48 hours, early in their admission,  has effectively reduced inflammation and improved outcomes.’

De Vasconcellos said it was essential to continue research in various topics within anaesthesia and critical care. The Conference had provided an invaluable opportunity for the country’s professionals to share ideas and network with delegates from the African continent.

De Vasconcellos is currently super-specialising in Critical Care and will write his final exams with the Colleges of Medicine later this year. His passion for anaesthetics and various medical and surgical disciplines is fulfilled working in the ICU where he manages to strike a balance.

He said his proposed PhD research would examine the use of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) in preoperative risk stratification and risk reduction.

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The Advance of Academic Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century: An Economic and Philosophical Account of the Challenges facing the University Today, is the title of UKZN Professor Garth Allen’s latest book.

Allen is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Leadership Centre.  The book explores the application of economics and philosophy to an understanding of universities as social, political and, above all, economic institutions.

It is Allen’s ninth book and his third concerning universities.   Earlier publications about universities were involved in assessing their regional impact and, more specifically, their economic impact, and were commissioned by the United Kingdom government.

His latest work draws on recent developments in economic philosophy to understand the ways in which universities behave, and how their professors and students want them to behave.

According to the publisher’s note, the book introduces the triumvirate of trust, risk and uncertainty, and applies these to features of university life the author has personally experienced, through teaching, management and research in universities over a period of 30 years.

‘The book aims to cast fresh perspectives on the nature and significance of universities in the lives of those who work and study in them, and in the well-being of nations.

‘The book also attempts to attract non-economists to a love of economics, and to remind, if necessary, students and professors of economics, that their discipline has the power to reveal unusual features of major social institutions, such as universities.’

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The Collaborative for HIV and AIDS, Religion and Theology (CHART), based in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, organised a consultation: “Contending with HIV, Contending with the Church: Building a Redemptive Religious Community”, at the Salt Rock Hotel on KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast. 

Participants included Professor Beverley Haddad, Professor Gerald West, Professor Philippe Denis, Professor Sue Rakoczy, Dr Herbert Moyo, Ms Bongi Zengele, Ms Nokhaya Makiwane and Ms Cherry Muslim, religious leaders from both Christian and Muslim communities, and co-ordinators of faith-based organisations from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Namibia, Kenya and Zambia.

Organisations attending included the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS (+INERELA), the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Africa (EHAIA) and the Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa (CABSA).

In addition to the plenary presentations, participants spent a great deal of time in small groups where the findings of the CHART research project: “The Cartography of HIV and AIDS, Religion and Theology”, were shared (see:  The fruitful discussions led to planning for future work in religion and HIV and mapping this agenda.

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The International Relations Office recently hosted a series of workshops aimed at developing an Internationalisation Plan for UKZN.

According to UKZN’s Strategic Plan, one of the key strategies of the University is to promote internationalisation. This includes exposing staff and students to global developments and trends and encouraging a vibrant exchange programme at the University.

In addition key strategic partners should be identified. Recruiting students from around the world is also considered to be of paramount importance for achieving this goal.

The workshops encouraged dialogue between role players at the University, including academics and support staff from the various Colleges, support staff from the various non-academic sectors of the institution and representatives from the Research Office and Corporate Relations Division.

Ms Tasmeera Singh, Acting Manager of International Relations, said the discussions provided a rich source of information for the collation of draft one of the plan.

The following are some of the suggestions/ideas/feedback gleaned from the discussion sessions:

-The marketing plan should look at each specific College. Trends need to be identified and each College should identify programmes that may be of particular interest to international students. This would contribute towards meeting enrollment targets, specifically for international students. Pockets of excellence at the University, eg the Food Security Programme, could be used to market the University to potential students around the world. College staff was asked to investigate the manner in which they develop partnerships at the College level;

-The Admissions practice at the University was interrogated, and ways to improve the turn-around time for dealing with applications explored;

-Training of frontline staff in understanding the broad aspects of internationalisation was identified as crucial in improving service delivery;

-Collaborations with external cultural organisations (eg French and Greek) were identified as a way of fostering stronger relationships with International students as well as the various embassies/consulates the University engages with;

-Utilising alumni based abroad to market the University to potential international students;

-Accommodation was identified as a key issue that could affect the internationalisation plan.

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Members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) in association with representatives from clubs and societies organised a peaceful protest on the Westville campus against women and child abuse.

SRC member Mr Thulani Doncabe said the protest - also aimed at creating awareness among staff and students - was also a way of showing sympathy to the family of a medical school student who died violently in one of the residences.

The protest began at Makhabane traffic circle and ended at the student quad. The march was then followed by a range of educational games around the same issue.

Doncabe said they wanted to restore morality on campus and make male students aware that they needed to treat women as their “sisters” in a community that should protect each other.

He also urged female students to protect themselves by not going to unsafe places and not consuming excessive amounts of alcohol that could result in them becoming easy prey.

Doncabe said although there were not a lot of cases of women being abused at UKZN it was distressing to note the number of rape and abuse cases in South Africa.

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Travel funding from the College of Health Sciences Mary Weston Fund made it possible for Dr Bruce Biccard, a Senior Academic in UKZN’s Department of Anesthetics, to attend an All Africa Anaesthesiology Congress in Cairo, Egypt, where he presented three papers.

Attended by about 1 500 registered delegates, Biccard says that the Conference was not only a success with regards to growing the anaesthesiology profession but also provided a platform for international research collaboration.

Biccard managed to successfully formalise an Africa Anesthesiology Collaborative group. The group was established to promote medical education, programme development, health outcomes auditing and clinical research.

Biccard’s paper titled: “The role of BNP in perioperative risk stratification in noncardiac surgery”, focused on determining the utility of B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) perioperative risk stratification and its role in vascular and nonvascular noncardiac surgery as well as the perioperative timing of B-type natriuretic peptide serum evaluation.

BNP is a substance secreted from the ventricles or lower chambers of the heart in response to changes in pressure that occur when heart failure develops and worsens. The level of BNP in the blood increases when heart failure symptoms worsen, and decreases when the heart failure condition is stable. According to a recent study published in the January Journal of the American College of Cardiology, BNP accurately detected heart failure 83 percent of the time and reduced clinical indecision from 43 percent to 11 percent.

Biccard’s study found that BNP’s were associated with improved cardiac risk stratification in non-cardiac surgery, however whether they improved patient outcome by integrating them into management algorithms still needed to be determined.

Biccard’s second paper was titled: “Intraoperative predictors of adverse cardiac outcomes in noncardiac surgery”. Preoperative cardiac risk is commonly determined by preoperative risk scores and risk stratification tools. However, recent studies have suggested that intra-operative factors modify the risk of cardiac complications following noncardiac surgery. Therefore, this study aimed to determine where it was important to identify independent intraoperative predictors of perioperative cardiac risk.

The study is a large ongoing international prospective observational project known as the Vascular Events In Noncardiac Surgery PatIents cOhort evaluatioN (VISION) Study. Data from the meta-analysis suggested that the only independent intra-operative predictor of postoperative cardiac events with sufficient evidence, was the need for perioperative blood transfusion.

However, Biccard said the size of the VISION study, which will involve 40 000 patients worldwide when completed, will present a unique opportunity to explore whether the intraoperative physiological and surgical risk predictors in single small studies were in fact independent predictors of postoperative cardiac events, even in the presence of perioperative blood transfusion.

The VISION study hopes to clarify a number of limitations of the current understanding of which risk factors are independently predictive of postoperative cardiac events.

Biccard’s third paper: “Myocardial Injury after Noncardiac Surgery - a Proposed New Clinical Entity”, focused on developing new diagnostic criteria for patients who have myocardial complications during noncardiac surgery. The presentation of myocardial injury in surgical patients is different to that of medical patients with myocardial infarction.

The data, also part of the VISION study, will be published in the near future, and it is hoped they will help in identifying and managing these patients in the future.

The Perioperative Research Group based within UKZN’s Department of Anaesthetics and in collaboration with the Departments of Cardiology, Radiology and Chemical Pathology, is the only African site participating in the VISION study.

Biccard stated that attending the Conference was useful. ‘I believe the funding succeeded in providing an impetus for academic development, collaboration and contributed to successful exposure for the University. Thank you for supporting me.’

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The Society of Commons, a non-partisan organisation which seeks to provide pedagogical space to aspiring social intellectual workers, was launched recently on the Howard College campus.

The event was well attended with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, welcoming all students and the event’s guest speaker, Professor Steven Friedman of the University of Johannesburg.

‘This is the start of something great where researchers, staff and students come together and critically engage with pertinent issues,’ said Potgieter.

To kick-start the launch there was a riveting debate around Constitutional Democracy followed by other issues, such as democratic consolidation, being discussed by Friedman.

Sociology and Labour Studies student, Mr Molaodi Sekake, said the Society of Commons aimed to transform the realities that reproduced oppressive structures of society through problematising the relationship between the ‘reproduction of dependent hierarchies of power and privilege in the domain of everyday life.

‘We seek to foster the understanding of the socio-political contexts of “educative” and “discursive” acts, and the importance of radically democratising the intellectual plane to represent the economically disenfranchised. It is thus a factory floor of “transformative intellectuals” in the realm of academia. And we welcome all students and staff to engage with us,’ he said.

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A stellar display of practical investing presented by Masters of Business Administration 3 students impressed a panel of judges comprising experts in the business sector.

As part of the Investment and Portfolio Management module, 50 students - divided into groups headed Future Index, Interest Swaps, Yield X Stock Brokers, Commodity Forward Asset Trading and Forex Options Investments - were allocated a virtual R1 million to buy and sell shares over a period of 42 days.

Putting the theoretical knowledge they learned in class into practice, the students had to explain the rationale behind their investment decision. 

The judging panel comprised the Head of Marketing at KwaZulu-Natal Music House, Mr Thabang Mofokeng, and former Managing Director of Inqaba Trade & Logistics (Pty) Ltd, Advocate Sipho Mkhize and Mr Preggy Reddy.

Mofokeng, who quizzed the groups on the yard stick they used whilst investing and how they influenced the outcomes, said  he had been highly impressed by the thought process and analysis used by the students.

‘They displayed the practical investment acumen used daily in the investment game. They thoroughly investigated investment mechanisms, risks and repercussions which is the core of the business world,’ he said.

Although all of the groups made compelling arguments for their investment decision, it was the Yield X Stock Brokers who were crowned the winners.

Group leader Lee Moodley said the assignment had been an enriching experience. ‘It was a very informative and practical experience and as individuals we learnt a lot. The only downside was that we had limited exposure in trying to understand how to invest as we had limited time to study the markets but that was also a learning curve to prepare us for the workplace.’

Lecturer, Mr Steven Msomi said that through such creative initiatives, the GSB&L is able to groom and shape thought leaders who are adequately equipped to tackle and make a valuable contribution to the business world. 

‘The groups’ presentation on their share valuation philosophy and practice has always been the highlight of this module. It is exciting that each year we do these presentations, the students keep raising the bar. Based on the report that we have received from both the student community and the judges, the presentations were a resounding success. The value-add for an MBA degree stretches far beyond theories and concepts, hence the practical trading exercise is the highlight of the course for the students,' he said.

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Thirteen Conflict Studies Masters students from the University of St Paul in Ottawa, Canada, accompanied by their leader, Professor Heather Eaton, recently visited UKZN’s School of Social Sciences.

The group joined the School for a series of seminars presented by several UKZN Conflict Transformation & Peace Studies (CTPS) staff and invited speakers.

Research topics presented included Pacifism, Liberation and Violence, Solidarity; Church and State Relations; Hunger as a Potential for Conflict in South Africa and Biofuels and Land Contestations in Zimbabwe.

The School also hosted a colloquium at which students from UKZN and St Paul’s presented their work.

Canadian student Mr Norm Desjardins said the seminars were informative and interesting. ‘Listening to the topics presented, it has been sobering for me because you now tend to appreciate the complexities and the challenges people face. It’s also great interacting with other students and engaging in critical analysis of situations where one can apply political theories and share in the different perspectives,’ he said.

According to Dr Alain Tschudin of CTPS, the students enjoyed a tour of Durban.

‘Local and Canadian students undertook an exploratory tour of inner city Durban to share more about relevant projects and initiatives and also visited the Gandhi settlement and Ohlange, the house of John Dube (founder of the ANC) in Inanda. It was an enriching experience for all involved,’ said Tschudin. 

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Prospective students, keen to pursue a degree in the Humanities field at UKZN, braved the cold and rain to attend the 2013 Undergraduate Information Open Day held on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Crowds of students, some accompanied by parents and their educators, flocked to the information sessions eager to find out more about the degrees and career opportunities available for study in the College of Humanities.

Information sessions were held by various Deans and Representatives of the Schools within the College.

The Dean and Head of the School of Applied Human Sciences, Professor Nhlanhla Mkhize, addressed students, encouraging them to consider pursuing a career as criminologists, social workers or psychologists. ‘There is a huge demand for social workers and clinical psychologists in South Africa hence make the right choice and come study with us at UKZN,’ he said.

Within the information sessions, students were informed about the admission criteria for entry into the various degree programmes and were made aware of all the available academic opportunities, student funding criteria and student support services.

Nsikayethu Secondary School learner, Ms Naledi Ramarob, expressed her interest in becoming a UKZN student. ‘I want to study Architecture at the University because I am fascinated by the concept of designing and creating buildings,’ she said.

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Keyan G Tomaselli*

‘The publish or perish syndrome has aided the corruption of genuine scholarship. There are numerous stories around publishing that if told would make Einstein or any of the scholars of old turn in their graves.’  This was a further response of many received after my column: Of Wheat and PUs.  

Where a few claimed solidarity in our common allergen, or offered some words of support, most of my correspondents external to UKZN sent me mini-essays, examples from their own institutions, and one connected me to a staff-authored website where similar issues are being debated.  As in X-Files, ‘We are not alone’.  But the cry everywhere is: ‘I hope that with the right kind of intervention, the pressure to publish quickly can be lessened and scholars would pursue good scholarship instead of seeking to publish just to keep the job.’  These comments were made by a UKZN PhD graduate now in the consultancy business.

A Professor from an upcountry university offered the following tutorial: ‘The more highly rated researchers often have h-factors on the ISI/Scopus that exceed 20 or 25, whereas top humanities scholars are sometimes not even found in such indexes, because they write (in) books.’

This scholar’s counter-argument to the managers ‘is to look at the NRF ratings’.

‘It is not a perfect system, but clearly, if someone is a B, with a relatively low h-factor, his/her peers surely appreciate the substance of their contribution more than someone with a C and an h-factor of 15 or whatever.’

As a journals’ editor I am increasingly wading through this kind of jargon, h-factors, impact factors, download indices, citation matrices and all those acronyms and associated spreadsheets that like uncontrolled viruses have taken over our academic lives in the vain ideological pursuit of public accountability.  Pursuing “good scholarship” in many South African universities is coming under stress as we tread the production conveyer belt of fast-and-dirty publication and having to cope with injuriously elevated enrolment targets at the very moment that unanticipated staff and tutor cuts kick in, modules are cancelled, and staff:student ratios reduce the possibility of our offering good education, let alone “good scholarship”. 

Many certification-driven students (and their parents) appear to be quite happy with this state of affairs.  These students gravitate towards the allegedly easy options, in some cases their lecturers are complicit in this flight from excellence, as they seek the lowest common denominator.    Everybody except the “good scholars” are happy. The intellectual illiterates are then accepted into graduate studies and we all hope for the best despite the ominous signs of global academic meltdown. 

Academics are spending more and more time putting out fires, dealing with bewildered students (i.e. the ones expecting good scholarship), while at UKZN our so-called cluster leaders have been largely deprived of administrative support, operating budgets and management authority.  University-wide operating systems are creaking at the seams as even a year after “reconfiguration” many of these systems have yet to catch up with the new structures and the policies that enabled them.

One hour at the coalface is all I ask of our top executive.  Become a lecturer, administrator or student for just a day; go undercover if necessary, just like in the Reality TV show Undercover Boss. These shows offer new genres and insights for anthropological research – getting down and dirty in Indian textile factories, being trumped by Trump and voted off the set by the survivors. Learn about how the shop floor really works and then you too can experience the daily stresses that characterise it.

As someone said after a meeting with top management, cluster leaders have “responsibility without power” rather than “power without responsibility”.  Go figure.

If we don’t get our stress levels under control we’re all going to end up as subjects in Spa of Embarrassing Illnesses, The Fat Doctor or similar. This will be our claim to “good scholarship” as we hyper-individuate, hyper-ventilate and re-interpellate ourselves from being “good scholars” to experimental subjects/celebrities stripped of any modesty by voyeuristic cameras, or at best, as participant observers, we are pricked and prodded, cut and suctioned, exposed and bared for all the world to see.  The difference between “acting” in these shows and being a social actor in the realm of academentia is that we can pick up our pay cheques and/or prizes at the door as we leave the studio and go home possibly feeling better than when we came in. 

Not only does the world now know what the problem was but also that there is a solution.  Not so in academia, where we just go round and round in circles.  Once the fat has been suctioned off, we then cut into the muscle, and once that’s gone, we’re left with skeletons. 

Only the forensic anthropologists will be left with something to study.  But, will any forensic anthropologists still be employed? 

As I was writing this column, a call for papers for The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for making-learning-creating-acting arrived in my inbox, to be published by HammerOn Press.  Not a moment too soon. The new saviour is the para-academic.   Para-academics critically reflect on how the idea of a university as a site for knowledge production, discussion and learning, has become distorted by neo-liberal market forces.

In South Africa, this is paradoxically legitimised by the term “transformation”.

Para-academics create alternative, open access, learning-thinking-making-acting spaces. They don’t worry about career paths. They take the prefix para- to illustrate how they work alongside, beside, next to, and rub up against the all too proper location of the Academy, making the work of Higher Education a little more irregular, a little more perverse, a little more improper.

Para-academics just continue to do what they’ve always done: write, research, learn, think, and facilitate that process for others.  At many South African universities, however, SAPSE (or whatever it is called now) rules.  How else can the budget be balanced?

Para-academics do not need to churn out endless “outputs”. They work towards making ideas rather than quantifiable “products”.  The only problem with para-academics, as one post doc remarked, ‘is that there is no job security and often they slip into the fractures of a neoliberal capitalist university model that does not offer tenure. Thus these para-academics live a very tenuous existence’.

Anyone for para-gliding with para-professors doing para-academics off the MTB Tower on a busy day?  We can meet up at the unemployment insurance office downtown.

Keyan G Tomaselli is Director of The Centre for Communication, Media and Society. He understands that Reality TV genre is the new reality. Maybe the academy is now a Reality TV show?

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

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