The Director of UKZN’s African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI), Professor Mark Laing, was a finalist in the 2012/2013 National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) - BHP Billiton Awards.

The awards, held annually since 1998, honour professionals in science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) for sterling work and outstanding contributions. The awards are fully endorsed by the Department of Science and Technology with the relevant Government Minister being the official Patron.

Laing, who is also Chair of Plant Pathology in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, was recognised in the Eskom-sponsored category for Research Capacity Developers. 

He was the only nominee from UKZN among others from the University of Cape Town, Pretoria University and Stellenbosch. 

In his role as ACCI’s Director, Laing has for the past 11 years been at the head of training PhDs from a variety of African countries in crop improvement.  A total of 52 students have been trained during that time with another 45 still on the course, which involves one or two years of study and research at the ACCI, followed by three years of fieldwork in the students home countries. 

In the Plant Pathology field, Laing is also responsible for training MSc and PhD candidates who are often fully employed at institutions such as Cedara, or have come from other African countries for postgraduate studies.

Laing attended the awards gala dinner in Johannesburg where the Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission, Mr Trevor Manuel, was the main speaker on the evening.

Laing was recently awarded a Finalist’s certificate by Mr Derek Hanekom, Minister of the DST at a DST function in Johannesburg.

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UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) - with Professor Sabiha Essack as Principal Investigator - has been awarded a grant valued at about R27 million to strengthen the postgraduate and research capacities of two universities in Malawi and Mozambique.

The grant was awarded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) under its new programme called the Norwegian Programme for Capacity Development in Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED).

Through strategic investments, NORHED is designed to stimulate productive South-North collaboration between NORAD and institutions of higher learning in low and middle income countries (LMICs). NORAD had observed that such institutions faced difficulties in providing quality and relevance of learning and research, retaining staff and ensuring adequate working environments and career prospects.

Existing partnerships and research collaborations between UKZN, the University of Tromsø in Norway, the University of Malawi and Mozambique’s Inst Superior Ciências Saúde-Commissar Instaladora, resulted in a consortium which was awarded the NORHED grant for a project titled: “Antimicrobial Stewardship and Conservancy in Africa”.  The project will focus on communicable diseases and antimicrobial resistance in Africa, the containment of drug resistance, infection prevention and control, antibiotic selection pressure, social science aspects, as well as strategies to achieve African Union imperatives by South-South collaboration with North-South support.   

Essack, who is Dean and Head of the School of Health Sciences, said health statistics of the target NORHED LMICs in sub-Saharan Africa identified communicable diseases as the main cause of years of life lost. Antimicrobial (drug) resistance (AMR) was a key obstacle for the successful management of infectious diseases in Africa, especially in LMICs where the burden of infectious diseases was high and access to diagnostic services and second-line treatment often absent.

‘The World Health Organization, amongst other international agencies, has long recognised AMR as a growing global health threat, and the World Health Assembly, through several resolutions over two decades, has called upon member states and the international community to take measures to contain and prevent AMR.’

Essack highlighted recent media reports in which the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officer suggested that antibiotic resistance be listed on the national risk register and during the 2011 World Health Day theme: “Combat Drug Resistance-No Action Today, No Cure Tomorrow”.  Essack mentioned that the vast majority of countries had embarked on national and international initiatives as well as partnerships to contain resistance by a variety of stewardship measures.’

Professor Doutor Domingos Tuto from Mozambique and Dr Geoff Chipungu, Clinical Microbiologist at the University of Malawi, said the project was extremely important for their institutions and would generate useful data on managing infections and managing each country’s resources.

Tuto said they were challenged with patients who took incorrect dosages and exceeded their duration of treatment. This often led to drug resistance and was a financial burden to the health system, increasing the need for even more costly and toxic drugs.  The universities in Malawi and Mozambique said they would rely on the expertise and health sciences best practices that are used at UKZN.

The collaborators said drug resistance was a global problem. Norway and the other Nordic countries were identified as global leaders in this field as evidenced by “low resistance rates” and a strong political commitment most recently demonstrated by the One Health proposal to the European Parliament and the global health community in 2012. 

Professor Arnfinn Sundsfjord, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Tromsø in Norway, said the institution was encouraged by the initiative from UKZN as it addressed a very important topic on a global scale – ‘the crisis of drug resistance when there are no new drugs available for low income countries’.

The UKZN team consisting of Essack, Professor Preshnie Moodley, Emeritus Professor Willem Sturm, Professor Fatima Suleman and Dr Christine Varga were particularly pleased with the feedback from reviewers. 

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Health Communication Programme Manager and Lecturer at UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), Mrs Eliza Govender, features in the 2013 Mail & Guardian’s “200 Young South Africans” supplement.

The newspaper supplement showcases young stars who are shaping the country’s future. It’s an honour to be recognised as a contributor to health, specifically HIV communication research,’ said Govender. ‘I think it’s a huge milestone in my career but more so for the field of HIV communication, emphasising as it does that social science research in relation to HIV does make a contribution to the wider discourse of HIV prevention.’

Govender also believes that research being put into practice is critical when dealing with issues of HIV as research and practice are interlinked, and cannot function independently.

‘Empirical research on the effectiveness of HIV communication must translate into practice. We have seen this in the cases of national HIV campaigns and TV series such as Soul City, Intersexions, Brothers for Life and Scrutinize. These interventions are theoretically underpinned by extensive HIV research and strategic communication designs.’

She advised young women to take an introspective approach and unpack their dreams and goals. ‘I believe we all have a footprint to leave no matter how big or small it may be. Every step counts and every step gets you closer to where you need to be,’ she said.

Govender plans to continue making contributions to the field of HIV communication.’ I really have a heart for community engagement, upliftment and projects which promote poverty alleviation. So setting up a long term sustainable community project is definitely on my agenda.’

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Abafundi abathathu base-UKZN babuyele emuva lapho bevela khona ukuyokhuthaza abanye abafundi ukuba bakulangazelele ukuqhubeka nezifundo zabo ezikhungweni eziphakeme.

Laba abathathu, uNksz Nontuthuko Sibiya, uNksz Smangele Mabika kanye noNksz Nomzamo Mashaba bavela eKolishini leSayensi yezeMpilo.

Bebeye eManguzieduze kwaseKosi Bay eNyakatho neKwaZulu-Natali bephelezelwa owase-UKZN ohambela izikole eheha abafundi uMnu Mxolisi Ncube.

Inhloso yohambo lwabo bekukugqugquzela babuye bakhuthaze abafundi bebanga likamatikuletsheni esikoleni ababefunda kuso kanye nomphakathi ukuthi basebenze kanzima ukuze bakwazi ukubhalisa eNyuvesi.

Isakhiwo iManguzi Education Centre endaweni sinikeza abafundi umtapo wolwazi onolwazi ngemikhakha eyahlukene. Bamukela abantu abasha abavela ezindaweni ezahlukene eManguzi futhi kulapho uMashaba, uMabika noSibiya bathumela khona izicelo zabo zokufunda ezikhungweni eziphakeme.

‘Ngiyabonga ngalesakhiwo nolwazi abanginikeza lona ukuze kwakheke ikusasa lami,’ kusho uSibiya.

UMashaba, uMabika noSibiya batshele abafundi ukuthi badlula kanjani ebunzimeni ukuze kufezeke amaphupho abo okufunda eNyuvesi. ‘Amathuba okufunda akhona, ukuthi nje kudinga ukuzikhandla,’ kusho uMashaba.

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Representatives from the College of Humanities visited Zimbabwe recently as part of the Year of the College campaign which aims to establish partnerships between UKZN and other African universities.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, said, ‘The need for the visit arose from the mutual recognition by members of staff at UKZN and Great Zimbabwe (Masvingo) as well as graduate students that a partnership would be mutually beneficial.

‘Indicative of university life is the internationalising of knowledge production, the dissemination and distribution of knowledge and information produced as well as the free movement of staff and students engaged in knowledge production processes.’

The visit aimed to explore the potential for establishing partnerships and possible Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). The visit was in part facilitated by Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Management in the School of Education, Professor Vitallis Chikoko, who is currently spending his sabbatical in Zimbabwe.

Potgieter pointed out that given the detrimental effect the legacy of apartheid continued to have on the subcontinent, the cultural life of the people of the SADC countries were still largely disconnected and separated from one another.

In this context, she said: ‘It is incumbent on African universities to develop partnerships and jointly participate in developing and fostering academic knowledge production and expertise. Our African states invest in our universities expecting the production of knowledge of the highest quality – knowledge which is both locally relevant and internationally significant.

‘This is why UKZN has embarked on the route of investing its resources in the training and education of PhD graduates. This need was also recognised by the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education (ZIMCHE) in its decision in 2012 to equally require all university lecturers to have PhDs,’ said Potgieter.

This view was echoed by the Vice-Chancellor and Head of the University of Great Zimbabwe, Professor RJ Zvobgo, who said: ‘Zimbabweans have the highest regard for UKZN’s research output and knowledge production. Zimbabweans are very proud of their history and legacy, as well as their very strong education system. We are looking forward to the partnership and the joint participation in common research projects.’

The delegation met with Deans, staff as well as prospective students at the University of Great Zimbabwe and the University of Zimbabwe. At present more than 80 applications for PhD studies at UKZN have been received as a result of this visit.

Under the leadership of Dean and Head of School of Education, Professor Gregory Kamwendo; Dean and Head of School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, Professor Jannie Smit, and Academic Leader Research in Education, Dr Pholoho Morojele, it has been decided that the College of Humanities will establish two interdisciplinary Zimbabwean PhD cohorts. Due to current demand, one cohort will be based in Harare and another in Masvingo.

The College of Humanities will also sign an MOU with the tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe.  ‘The trip was a resounding success, especially because it speaks to our vision to create more partnerships on the continent and also in terms of assisting with increasing the number of academics with PhDs at universities on the continent,’ said Potgieter.

‘For the College of Humanities we will be increasing the number of PhDs registered in the College but it is essentially about sharing resources and skills. Like UKZN, the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education has set a PhD as the minimum requirement for an academic employed at the university.’

The College of Humanities team comprising Deans and representatives of all six schools within the College plan to also visit Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia in the next two months.

‘The Year of the College gives expression to the internationalising of knowledge and knowledge production on the continent. Continental partnerships, collaborative research, the enrolling of PhD students from the continent at UKZN and prospective staff and student exchanges are giving substance to the objectives of the Year of the College as well as the UKZN vision, mission and Transformation Charter,’ said Potgieter.

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A study on the use of isiZulu videos as a “teaching aid” for clinical communication skills in the MBChB Programme is being piloted by UKZN researchers Dr Margaret Matthews, Dr Paula Diab and Mrs Roshni Gokool. 

It is envisaged the videos, produced in isiZulu, could bridge the language and cultural divides young healthcare practitioners often face in the working world. 

The study was presented at the 2013 SA Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE) Conference by Matthews, a Clinical Skills Lecturer, who said UKZN found itself in a multi-cultural society where the challenge of equipping students with the necsssary skills to communicate with patients from different language and cultural backgrounds had to be addressed. 

UKZN recently announced the introduction of isiZulu as a module in all undergraduate degree programmes, however health sciences students are already being trained in language skills. This is in line with the Health Professions Council of South Africa requirements which state that communication is a core competency for medical students. 

Matthews said isiZulu was an imperative for UKZN medical students, and the MBChB Programme had since 2010 used the Calgary-Cambridge Method for teaching and learning communication skills in medicine. In addition to embracing transformative learning, these efforts coincided with UKZN’s Language Policy and Plan. 

The principle was that students needed to be competent in interviewing patients and in explanation and planning. In their study, Matthews and her team aim to equip students with good isiZulu language and communication skills in order to improve student-patient communication and instil a patient-centred approach. ‘The ultimate goal is to enhance retention of doctors in the public service through this endeavour.’ 

The researchers developed four scenario-based videos in isiZulu in order to provide basic and some extended vocabulary around themes chosen from the MBChB preclinical years. The biomedical content includes “supported learning”  within the themes and highlights culturally sensitive topics. In addition to content, process skills in communication, especially those relevant to second language Zulu-speakers, were emphasised. 

Matthews said the videos would expose the students to language and sociocultural factors in health and illness with an intention to sensitise them to content knowledge in terms of common topics as well as communication skills. The team used a combination of image, text and sound to simulate authentic clinical settings in the videos, and their accessibility in the student LANs provided opportunities for revision and discussion.  

Matthews said such videos were a unique and versatile tool that could be used in a variety of ways to achieve many different learning outcomes. ‘The use of the videos fills a gap in communication which is vital to bridge language and cultural divides.’

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School of Accounting, Economics and Finance Lecturer, Dr Gerry Bokana has accepted an invitation to participate in a Council on Higher Education (CHE) teaching and learning task team doing a 20-year review of Higher Education.

As part of its mandate to monitor and comment on the South African Higher Education system, CHE is undertaking a comprehensive review of the sector which will analyse and assess the extent to which the early policy values are being realised.  It will also look at how prepared the sector is to adapt to challenges that it currently faces and to innovate in order to ensure that South African Higher Education is responsive and appropriate for the 21st Century.

The teaching and learning task team is made up of five academics from various Higher Education Institutions in South Africa and a research assistant provided by the Council who will review developments over the last 20 years, highlight the challenges and identify the main issues going forward. The task team will meet periodically in the Council on Higher Education offices in Pretoria to contribute to a report on its analysis which will culminate in a final report planned for the end of next year.

Bokana said: ‘In 2014 South Africa will mark 20 years of transition to a post-apartheid country. I feel privileged and honoured to be offered the opportunity to make a contribution to this impelling process which is vital in shaping the future of South Africa’s Higher Education sector.

‘I will continue to have on-going conversation and institutional collaboration with the UKZN Teaching and Learning Strategy Group and the teaching and learning community to inform my undertaking in the Council on Higher Education teaching and learning task team. I’m looking forward to working alongside this task team of renowned scholars and I’m sure I will benefit from my new role and association with the Council on Higher Education.’

Bokana accepted the invitation after attending the SOLSTICE eLearning and Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Effective Practices 2013 Conference held at the Edge Hill University, England last month. The conference focused on the enhancement of student learning through evidence informed practices and technology enhanced learning. The Conference offered valuable insights across a broad range of best practices, and was a springboard for useful conversation on teaching and learning in the South African Higher Education sector.

Dean of Accounting and Economics and Finance, Professor Anesh Singh, congratulated Bokana on his achievement which he said proved that academics who were part of the School were experts in their fields.

‘I believe that Dr Bokana’s inclusion among this select group of reviewers is a testament to his own skills and talent which I am sure he will use to make a valued contribution to the review of our sector,’ said Singh.

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UKZN hosted a two-day Stakeholders Workshop on the Westville campus on Developing an African Convention on Environmental Ethics for Sustainable Livelihood.

The African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIKS) Research Leader at UKZN, Professor H O Kaya, explained the workshop as a preparation for the Africa Conference on Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Environmental Ethics for Sustainable Livelihood to be held at the University in March 2014.

The objectives of the Africa Conference are to deepen consultation on developing an African Convention on Environmental Ethics to promote Afro-centred and cultural specific approaches; to develop strategies of mobilising consensus, and to work in consensus with initiatives around the world for effective and interactive civil society ownership.

The proposed themes for the Africa conference on environmental ethics include: Knowledge Systems; Governance and Justice; Science and Technology; Rural Development and Sustainable Livelihood; Communication, Language and Power Relations.

The Conference is expected to host more than 300 delegates from within and outside Africa. It will be jointly organised by UKZN; the Departments of Science and Technology, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform; International Relations and Cooperation; UNESCO and the North-West University.

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The Forum for Rural Clinical Education (FoRCE) was launched at the 2013 South African Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE) Conference by the Chairperson of the South African Committee of Health Science Deans, Professor Sabiha Essack of UKZN.

FoRCE was developed at a meeting at the University of the Witwatersrand last year where the notion of supporting rural academia was explored.

The forum has identified key areas of focus for the inclusive discussion forum and regular meetings which form part of SAAHE and future Rural Health Conferences.

FoRCE will also propose a more formal, representative structure that would engage with key role players in the field and engage around research and policy and support the development of a rural teaching platform.

Dr Bernhard Gaede, Director of UKZN’s Centre for Rural Health, said FoRCE emphasised not only national and international imperatives needed to develop a rural teaching platform, but also the need for a community of practice that grew the experience and evidence of such a multi-disciplinary and decentralised approach to health professional education.

Gaude said: ‘It transcends many traditional boundaries – particularly between health professions and between the University / faculty staff and the rural clinicians that often are the supervisors during the rural placements of students, and even the rural / urban divide.’

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A group of UKZN History lecturers and post-graduate students attended the biennial Southern African Historical Society (SAHS) Conference in Gaborone, Botswana, last month.

They presented six papers that explored histories of unemployment, inter-racial sport, welfare and the regulation of African families, memory and the Group Areas Acts, science and popular culture.  PhD student Takunda Dombo won a runner up prize for best post-graduate paper for his “African Newspapers Ltd and South African influence in the growth of newspapers for Africans in Southern Rhodesia”.

The Conference, titled “All for One: One for All? Leveraging national interests with regional visions in southern Africa”, focused on the possibilities for regionalism in expanding historical perspectives and research visions.

Four years ago, the SAHS made the transition from a national (South African) to a regional academic body. This year was the first occasion that the Conference has been held outside of South Africa. In 2011, the Conference was hosted by UKZN.

For the Botswana-bound group, travel by car enabled visits also to historically relevant locations along the way, including the Sterkfontein Caves at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

For more about the SAHS see

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UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU) recently joined forces with the Universe Awareness Programme (UNAWE) which is aimed at developing the understanding of astronomy among children aged between four and 10.

This programme involves a workshop called the Pop-Rocket Workshop in which young children are taught how to make their own paper rockets and launch them on a system of PVC pipes and empty Coke bottles. 

Ms Troshini Naidoo of the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town visited UKZN for a week in May hosting a series of workshops in conjunction with Ms Prashina Kallideen of the ACRU.

Budree will now host various UNAWE workshops in Durban.  

Apart from the Pop-Rocket Workshop, a teacher workshop was also held during Naidoo’s visit providing teachers with skills, ideas and techniques to assist in teaching the astronomy syllabus at their schools.

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Two hundred and fifty five high school pupils from disadvantaged schools in KwaZulu-Natal who aim to pursue a career in commerce attended a Winter School hosted by the College of Law and Management Studies.

The course on the Westville campus provided Grade 11 and Grade 12 pupils from rural areas including Jozini, Ulundi, Vryheid, KwaNongoma and Nquthu with tuition in English, Mathematics, Accounting and Physical Science.

The programme adopts an all-inclusive teaching and learning approach by delivering a curriculum with substantial extra learning opportunities to pupils with outstanding potential.

Instead of concentrating on Grade 12 only, the programme also recruited Grade 11 pupils in a proactive approach adopted by the College to help curb the high dropout rates because of poor academic performance.  The goal was also to help ensure that when pupils reach tertiary level they are adequately prepared to handle the curriculum and that they graduate within the specified time.

The Programme is geared towards preparing the learners to perform better in their final examination which in turn will enable them to meet the University entrance requirements.

In addition to teaching and learning, the Winter School Programme is designed in a multi-faceted manner aimed at equipping the participants with life skills in time management, leadership, study and examination preparation techniques.

Pupils participated in environmentally sustainable initiatives to sensitise them about the importance of preserving the environment for future generations.

The Programme also created a platform for social interaction through sports and career guidance workshops to highlight career opportunities.

Professor Kriben Pillay, the College Dean of Teaching and Learning, said that all preparations were made to provide a meaningful experience to learners who were accommodated at the University residences on the Westville campus. The hosting of the learners had been made possible through a generous sponsorship from the Citi Foundation.

Grade 12 pupil Muziomuhle Nene of Kwanxusa High School in Melmoth said he was grateful for the useful information he acquired through the programme.  He was now better informed about what was needed to pursue a career in BCom Accounting on the Pietermaritzburg campus next year.

‘Accounting is my passion that is why I am working hard to get the best grades that I can both in accounting and maths. After attending this Winter School I am confident of success,’ said Nene.

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Research results on mobile learning and mobile health interventions were presented at the South African Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE) Conference by a UKZN expert in emergency healthcare Professor Petra Brysiewicz of the School of Nursing and Public Health. 

The research – originating from advanced midwifery education in KwaZulu-Natal – acknowledged that mobile learning and mobile health interventions fail because they adopt a techno-centric view and ignore the local context.

To address this, Brysiewicz and colleagues investigated the “organic” adoption and educational usage of mobile phones by health workers in rural health settings.  

The study revealed a number of unexpected learning and teaching practices based on the grassroots adoption of mobile phone functions and in particular, social applications (apps). These practices involved a cognitive, teaching and social presence as well as reflective practice, enabling rich educational experiences, according to the Community of Inquiry Theory which was used in the study’s methodolgy.  

Brysiewicz explained that “traditional” communities of inquiry were based on pre-determined online environments. ‘By contrast, learners used bundles of phone-based functions to embed mobile and blended communities and other resources that were fragmented across social, temporal, topical, geographical, digital and “real” spaces in the inquiry process in very dynamic ways.’ 

The study found that in view of future mobile health and mobile learning efforts, mobile phones appeared to be particularly suitable to facilitate competence development in the following ways:

  - problem solving and situated co-construction of local knowledge

  - socio-cultural participation, to alleviate professional isolation

  - connecting learning in workplaces with formal education systems

  - addressing unpredictable opportunities and challenges that are typical for the changing and provisional (health) contexts observed.

Brysiewicz said: ‘Instead of ignoring the revealed practices, health and education institutions are well advised to support learners in media literacy - enabling them to more effectively and critically use existing (mobile) technologies.’

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UKZN’s Housing Discipline under the School of Built Environment and Development Studies (BEDS) has committed to collaborate with the National Department of Human Settlements (NDHS).

The engagement is part of the on-going process of professionalising the human settlement sector and capacity development around strategic areas in the sector.

According to the Dean and Head of BEDS, Professor Thokozani Xaba, a professional body which will serve as an accreditor and an umbrella body for the sector and its practitioners is currently being established.

‘The NDHS is conducting internal governance processes necessary for setting up a body of this nature after which a stakeholder consultation processes will allow human settlements practitioners, academic institutions and other relevant stakeholders to shape the nature and character of the body,’ said Xaba.

The process is currently being driven by Ms Siphokazi Kwakweni of NDHS who has been visiting various academic institutions to establish relationships. Furthermore, the partnership between BEDS and NDHS will result in the two institutions collaborating on capacity development around key areas of government priority such as an informal settlement upgrading programme.

Mr Monty Narsoo of the National Upgrading Support Programme said seven municipalities had been earmarked to be part of the programme’s initiative aimed at contributing towards the objectives of Outcomes 8 of improving the lives of 400 000 informal settlements dwellers by 2014.

Xaba said: ‘The partnership will see the Housing Discipline within BEDS commence regular seminars on human settlements and related issues. It will also benefit qualifying undergraduate students within the programme by affording them scholarship opportunities from the Department of Human Settlements.

‘The partnership is also envisaged to facilitate greater collaboration between disciplines in the School regarding human settlement development.’

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Quality teaching of Clinical Medicine to MBChB students is crucial for effective service delivery to ensure effective patient care, according to Professor Rita Sood, a Professor of Medicine and practicing internist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

Sood was speaking at a Public Lecture on UKZN’s Medical School campus following the 6th National Conference of the South African Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE).

She presented various strengths and challenges of clinical bedside education in training today’s medical doctors. 

The Public Lecture was hosted by the School of Clinical Medicine in partnership with the Health Professions Education Research Group of UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.

At the SAAHE Conference, Sood presented a plenary on the topic: “Faculty Development for Transformative Education”. She turned the spotlight on the significance of clinical bedside teaching and assessment, urging clinical educators to involve patients in the educational process of training doctors as this provided invaluable opportunities.

Reflecting on teaching practices in India, Sood said it was important to monitor and understand what the final-year doctor was able to do, how the doctor could approach the profession, and how they perceived themselves as professionals.

Sood promoted the international One-minute Preceptor Model which she identified as the framework around which the teacher-student conversation could be structured during assessment. She said the perceptive micro-skills were useful in the short term with engaging the student and probing supportive evidence for their diagnosis. ‘Reinforce what was done well, correct mistakes and teach general rules and principles,’ she advised.

Sood said clinical education was not limited to the hospital bedside. The clinical environment also included teaching and learning in ambulatory settings, emergency departments, pre and post-surgery and even home visits.

She said the strength of clinical training was that it was “facilitatory” and there was an opportunity to “humanise” care by involving patients. The educator could directly observe students’ skill, role model skills and attitudes, this was an active learning process in which adults learn best. It emphasised team approach and encouraged the use of understandable non-verbal language.

Professor Miriam Adhikari, former Head of Paediatrics and Research Co-ordinator in the Postgraduate Office of UKZN’s School of Clinical Medicine, identified many similarities in the strengths and challenges of clinical bedside teaching and assessment in India and South Africa.

Adhikari said: ‘We have to give the student the correct perspective in order to manage the patient. One of the components is to highlight for the student what is important for them to assimilate around the patient. Of course that is not the final thing. The student goes on learning and reading around it to give them the basics.’

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Sitting in a lecture room two years ago law graduate Mr Jason Goodison could not have imagined how much success he would achieve after obtaining his LLB at UKZN.

Goodison, who graduated cum laude and received the Phatsoane Henny Group Medal, was recently appointed an associate at Cox Yeats Attorneys.  There is now a possibility of him being made a partner in the firm in the future.

Goodison, who also has a Social Science degree majoring in Legal Studies and Psychology from UKZN, said his LLB had played a vital role in shaping his successful career. 

‘The degree is world-class.  The University has very knowledgeable lecturers who have a passion for equipping students with the tools needed to enter the working world.

‘Having been taught by some of the best minds in the country has certainly placed me in a better position than many of my colleagues. And for that I am grateful.’ 

Coupling his interest in business with his passion for law made commercial law the perfect fit for Goodison.

In his new position as an Associate at Cox and Yeats Attorneys, he aims to grow his practice within the firm and to assist with mentoring those who are aspiring to become associates and partners in the business.

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UKZN’s School of Clinical Medicine and the College of Health Sciences’ (CHS) Health Professions Education Research Group hosted a stimulating workshop as a follow-up to the 6th National Conference of the South African Association of Health Educationalists (SAAHE).  

The workshop was conducted by Professor Stewart Mennin, an international faculty member of the Foundation for the Advancement of International Medical Education (FAIMER), whose current interests are in the application of complexity science concepts to the health professions, including medical education, leadership, management, change and sustainability of programmes. 

Mennin had presented a plenary on Technical Information, Adaptive Transformation and the Future of the Health Professions at the SAAHE Conference.  

In his talk at the workshop titled: “Integration and the Sciences Basic to Health Care: What? So What? Now What?”, Mennin presented his view of the future of health professions education which he said would include “adaptive action” achieved through the notions of praxis, integration, problematisation and humanisation. The use of technology would be crucial in the facilitation of these processes. 

He argued that identifying gaps in medical education provided an opportunity for growth, and institutions of higher learning needed to discard the underlying fear of losing their identity through integration of curricula. 

He said he saw no reason why examining clinical skills, physiology and anatomy, for example, could not take place in the same assessment in a meaningfully integrated way as opposed to separate subjects being in close proximity as proximity did not imply integration. 

Mennin said applying technical approaches to relational issues in health education should be avoided. As science was fundamentally rooted in observation and analysis rather than synthesis, health educationalists needed to ask: “What are the patterns we see, so what difference does it make and what shall we do?” 

According to Mennin, structure emerges when there are clear boundaries, recognising significant differences and/or similarities and effective exchange between people.  He termed these as “liberating constraints” which were the conditions for change and adaptive action for the future. 

His message was that ‘learning lives in listening and disturbing the status quo’. The way to change and adapt health sciences curricula to current best practices could best be achieved through respect and embracing the need for integration where necessary.  

This was supported by Professor William Daniels, Dean and Head of the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, who said this argument was appropriate because ‘we are working within a very dynamic environment’. Daniels said medical education was in the process of constant review hence the process of ‘do and reflect; review and come up with adjustments’, was necessary.  

The nature of collaboration in research, healthcare and health professions education was discussed and Daniels said much could be achieved through conducting systematic research.

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The University of Limpopo’s Senior Lecturer of Histology in the Department of Anatomy, Dr Pieter Ackermann, recently delivered a presentation on an electronic assessment system to academics at UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance.

The system, named Riddel, was developed by Ackermann five years ago. It is a computer testing system with a facility for reading speed tests and language and grammar testing.

The presentation highlighted that the system was particularly useful for image intensive subjects while tests could be compiled for any subject and the interface of the programme could be translated into any language making it possible to compile a computer test in isiZulu.

‘Computer testing has many advantages for an institution,’ said Ackerman. ‘A major benefit is that it is less labour intensive and makes life much easier for lecturers allowing them more time for research.’

UKZN academics Ms Upasana Singh and Dr Ziska Fields will test the system to ascertain its feasibility for adoption at the University.

Singh said adopting the automated manual marking process will save staff time, especially with the large number of first-year students the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance deals with annually.

‘Using Riddel will benefit students by allowing more frequent assessments as the system does all marking automatically, offering extensive statistical reporting facilities and special features that allow questions to be re-marked or excluded while automatically updating student marks.

‘The most important aspect of this system is that it runs on a local network, making it much faster than many of the proprietary systems,’ said Singh.

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A vibrant group of 17 youngsters from different schools in the KwaZulu-Natal area became “scientists for a week” during a recent College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science initiative.

Exciting career opportunities available through study at the College were illustrated and explained to the learners who were also introduced to various disciplines within the five Schools through various interactive learning experiences, talks and tours.

The week started at the Discipline of Astrophysics in the School of School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science where the students were divided into teams which had to build a replica model of the solar system from materials provided.  A prize was on offer for the winners.

They also spent time with graduates in the Discipline of Microbiology enjoying an opportunity to take part in interesting activities such as making yoghurt and also learning about the general relevance and importance of the Discipline.

On day two they were briefed about Crop Sciences and visited the Ukulinga Research Farm.

Plenty more was in store for them during the rest of the week at the College. The excitement among the students was tangible and a number of them identified the event as the perfect gateway to establishing a career direction.

The Be a Scientist for a Week event is one of a number of initiatives which inform young people about the multidimensional and diverse fields of study opportunities available through the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science.

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Keyan G Tomaselli*

One of the benefits of science is the law-making process.   Scientists have laws and principles for everything:  Boyle’s Law, the Law of Averages, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, etc.  These laws account for the behaviour of chemical, physical and measurable phenomena.  This column regularly invokes different kinds of laws to explain why things keep going wrong (kludgemanship, e.g., Murphy’s Laws).  Some laws explain irrationality while others identify why organisations that claim to be efficient and that institute endless performance management (PM) exercises, are, in fact, so chaotic .  My monthly study of academentia pays homage to all these laws and my column describes the experiences of the subjects of these laws.

Last year I was hosted by an Australian university.  This was a truly liminal experience – i.e., like with an Abakwetha initiation, a quality of ambiguity or disorientation occurred during a ritual, in this case a retirement event. An internationally influential Professor, in a scourge of neoliberalism and institutional stupidity, was retiring.  Not only was an entire afternoon devoted to discussions and critique of his life’s work, its impacts and its significance for Australians, but a celebratory evening rounded off the day’s events. 

Compare this to many South African universities where retirees slink away in the dark of night to a deafening institutional silence.  At the University of Oz, as I’ll call it, luminaries came in from all over the world to debate, celebrate and pay homage.  The seminar symbolised both tangible and intangible academic value, rather than only crude quantifiable productivity units. The deliberations highlighted academic integrity rather than sychophantic posturing. Indeed, this university itself took the man, his work and his retirement very seriously indeed. 

The cocktail party after the seminar offered an eye-opening performance in academic politics.  The acting Vice-Chancellor got a huge cheer when she stepped up to the podium; the acting DVC (Research), was noisily applauded when he followed; and the acting dean was met with thundering applause when he was introduced.  The reverse signifier, of course, related to the absence (because they were on suspension) of the previous (permanent) incumbents of these high management positions.  Democracy does still somehow exist in some institutions in some places some of the time.  This is what I mean by liminal.  Liminality enables the reversal or temporary suspension of hierarchies, while taken-for-granted future outcomes are cast into doubt.

The discussions were grounded on this Professor of Cultural Studies’ extensive influence on national policy and global debate. His often mentioned “F*ck that” attitude towards despotism, regression and institutional and individual idiocy became the metaphor that was often mentioned in jest by his peers, but uttered with deadly theoretical intent.  He put it more subtly when, in defeating counter-democratic tendencies in academic decision-making, he simply said “Gotcha”.

“The F*ck that Factor” is what increasingly comes to mind as everything unravels around us, even as more and more PM systems are put in place, and more and more auditors are employed,  and more and more rules are enacted in every institution everywhere.   Stress wrought by autocracy is shovelled downwards and academic workers everywhere have been restricted from the spaces in which they can play the Gotcha game. But they are not yet fully counter-Gotchered. Consider this response to my columns from someone in a UKZN support division:  ‘I cannot thank you enough for the sensational, intuitive humour you bring every time I read your UKZN Griot. Your ability to capture the feelings of both staff and students is almost supernatural. Your courage to put them in words gives me optimism and hope that things will improve. I am sure that the change starts with us rather than the fear of what might be done to us.  


This comment encodes exactly what my colleague from Oz stands for.  But he’s not really retiring.  His new playing field is the national one, one on which he intends to play Gotcha on a much larger scale.    So do most of us. In the South African context, only Jonathan Jansen works in the National “F*ck that ….” liminal space.  But can he really play Gotcha?

UKZN once had its own Gotcha exponent, most regrettably, now deceased.  This was the irrepressible, hugely articulate, really fearsome, thundering mathematics Professor, John Swart, the only man in Senate who could stare down Vice-Chancellors, any Vice-Chancellor.    His mission was to always take an opposing view, and to force the linear thinkers to think dialectically when trying to make policy that actually worked in the implementation.  He taught Senate to think, to debate, and to act with integrity, and to consider and weigh up the consequences of its decisions.

Hierarchicology explains why there are so few John Swarts in top management anywhere now in the world of academentia.  Gresham’s Law explains that ‘Trivial matters are handled promptly’, with the corollary that ‘important matters are never solved’.  This law, operative in commitology corresponds with a chemistry law, the Berthelot Principle: ‘Of all possible reactions, the one that does occur will liberate the greatest amount of heat.’  Translated into academentia, heat means “hot air”, that is, there is nothing to be done but we can talk lots about it.  Committees and meetings simply recirculate the heat and the meeting becomes more important than does the problem the meeting was constituted to solve.  This is Hendrickson’s Law; Hendrickson, an environmental engineer, must know something.

The Oz retirement seminar was not hot air.  It achieved something.  It placed human value on a human by his fellow humans.  While some HR boxes might have been ticked, the symbolic quality of this send-off could not be quantified.  I feel the same way about the passing of John Swart.  Like the University of Oz, UKZN has lost an extraordinary democrat, though the Man from Oz is also now working in and on a higher plane. 

Keyan G Tomaselli is Director of The Centre for Communication, Media and Society.  He used to be a Gotcha man at UKZN, but then lost the plot.  He thanks the man from Oz for enabling this new theory in Gotchacology.

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

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