LEADING ACADEMIC IN MATHEMATICS EDUCATION HONOURED IN DENMARK

LEADING ACADEMIC IN MATHEMATICS EDUCATION HONOURED IN DENMARK

Aalborg University in Denmark paid tribute to South Africa’s leading academic and expert in mathematics education, Professor Renuka Vithal,  Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning at UKZN, ‘for her strong contribution to the development of critical mathematics education in developing countries’. Professor Vithal was awarded the title of Doctor Honoris Causa at the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Medicine at Aalborg University at a ceremony held on April 8 in Denmark.

Professor Vithal is a highly respected academic and has made an exceptional contribution to the advancement of mathematics education both in Africa and at a global level. She has served as an education expert on the South African national commission for UNESCA and chaired the southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. She currently serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the International Commission of Mathematical Instruction, an affiliated group to the International Mathematical Union (IMU) and Chairs the South African Committee of IMU. She has recently been appointed to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Committee of the Academy of Science of South Africa.

Professor Vithal is passionate about the importance of the teaching and learning of mathematics for social and technological development and in particular in ‘deeply unequal societies such as South Africa’. She was the Research Project Leader for the South African sector of the International Study on Learners’ Perspectives in Mathematics Classrooms, an international qualitative comparative study in 14 different countries in the world.

Professor Vithal was always an academic achiever having obtained her BA with distinctions in Mathematics from the former University of Durban-Westville and a BEd honours cum laude from the former University of Natal.  She holds a MPhil in Mathematical Education from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and a doctoral degree of Natural Sciences from Aalborg University in Denmark - the first woman in the Faculty of Sciences at Aalborg University to be awarded this senior doctorate. In addition, Professor Vithal is a prominent author and has published extensively in peer-reviewed international and national journals, books and chapters in several books on mathematics education.

An assessment of her credentials from Aalborg University reads: “Besides her research excellence, she has very successfully implemented many of her own theoretical ideas in the processes of change in South African Higher Education in general, and in the process of democratization of her own university, in particular. She stands out as an education scholar who bridges research and leadership/innovation practice demonstrates a double quality in being able to illuminate and drive research-based educational change in practice’.

Her other areas of focus are curriculum transformation, quality promotion and assurance, promoting student access, throughput and success, and implementation of the University’s Language Policy.
author email : online@ukzn.ac.za

PROFESSOR SUCCESSFULLY SUPERVISES SIX PHDS

PROFESSOR SUCCESSFULLY SUPERVISES SIX PHDS

Professor Geoff Harris, Economist and Director of the Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies (CRPS) Programme in the School of Economics and Finance, supervised six doctoral candidates who graduated during the April Graduation Ceremonies.

The CRPS Programme began in 2000 with the overall objective of building the knowledge, skills and commitment of its students to the tasks of building peace in Africa.

The students focused on the following areas:

As the titles suggest, Harris is passionate about finding non-violent alternatives to war. This interest began while he was in Australia in the 1980s. He said: ‘I became interested in the effect of military expenditure on developing countries’ economies. I became aware that war as a way of dealing with disputes was very costly, often ineffective (consider Iraq and Afghanistan) and also immoral. So, I began to investigate the potential of non-violent alternatives and set up a Centre for Peace Studies at my university in 1990.

‘When I came to the former University of Natal in 1999, I linked up with a group of academics who had been trying to set up Peace Studies there. Quite soon, it took over much of my academic life. I'm very grateful to my colleagues in Economics for allowing me space to go along this path.’

Harris currently supervises approximately 15 Economics and Peace Studies students and acknowledges that the process is challenging especially because the majority of his students come from other African countries, particularly, the DRC, Rwanda and Zimbabwe and they have to deal with financial and migration issues.

“The University's postgraduate enterprise is very largely oriented towards students who are studying full-time, are here on campus, have money, are very competent in English and are SA citizens. Most of my students have few if any of these attributes and it is a struggle for them to study. I am blown away by
author email : langah@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN HONOURS DISTINGUISHED SOUTH AFRICANS

UKZN HONOURS DISTINGUISHED SOUTH AFRICANS

The University conferred Honorary Degrees on:


 

Professor Sydney Brenner DSc (honoris causa):   A pioneer in molecular biology, author, and Nobel laureate Professor Sydney Brenner has had a long and impressive scientific career which spans six decades.  At Cambridge he collaborated to decipher the nature of the genetic code and other elements of gene function. Professor Brenner, together with scientists Robert Horvitz and John Sulston, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for their groundbreaking studies in understanding the complexities of molecular organisms. He played a critical role in Britain’s involvement in the Human Genome project. Today in his ‘80s, Brenner remains an energetic provocateur of new ideas and avenues in biological research throughout the world. 
 

Ms Busi Mhlongo DMus (honoris causa) posthumous: Her music earned international acclaim. Known as “The queen of modern Zulu music”, the late Ms Busi Mhlongo turned the Maskanda guitar music of migrant Zulu mine workers into a worldwide phenomenon. The international singer, composer and dancer’s infectious music and singing style had a universal appeal mesmerizing audiences around the globe.  Described as ‘one of the most phenomenal and exciting musicians to have ever emerged from South Africa’, her lyrics carried powerful and poignant messages.

 

&
author email : online@ukzn.ac.za

BEST LAW STUDENT IN PIETERMARITZBURG

BEST LAW STUDENT IN PIETERMARITZBURG

Mr Peter Smith is the Pietermaritzburg Law Faculty’s top student. He graduated summa cum laude on April 14.

Smith, who also received a number of other awards from the Faculty, said that he owes his success to his family who always fostered an academic culture in their household. ‘I am very honoured by the achievement, particularly earning it at a Faculty staffed by lecturers I respect so greatly,’ he added.

Smith is currently completing his articles of clerkship at Webber Wentzel Attorneys law firm in Johannesburg. He said that he initially studied law in his BA degree, and then decided to complete his LLB because he enjoyed the rigour of the subject and the logic in problem solving. ‘I also enjoy the fact that law is so relevant to society and current affairs, and is a practical and a logical subject.’

He added that studying as an undergraduate with his brother, Mike, who is pursuing his Masters in Economics, pushed him to higher levels of achievement, given the competition between them.

Smith said that he enjoyed his years at the Pietermaritzburg campus and has particularly fond memories of the Law Faculty. He added that the examinations were always a challenge, especially the high frequency of exams he had to endure at the end of his LLB degree. ‘I do however believe the challenge that exams posed were a great learning experience,’ he added.


author email : shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

MEDICAL MASTERMIND IS DETERMINED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

MEDICAL MASTERMIND IS DETERMINED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Ms Kumari Naidoo received her MBChB summa cum laude on April 15. She received the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine Award for top student in her Class of 2010, and was one of the top three undergraduate students across all disciplines at UKZN in 2010. 

Humbled by this achievement, Naidoo said that of the six specialties studied in her final year, her interest is in internal medicine. 'It gives you grounding for understanding all the other aspects of medicine,' she said. 'I have also enjoyed Pediatrics because I enjoy interacting with children,' she added.

Naidoo was awarded prizes for being the top student in Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology in final year. She is currently doing a two-year internship at King Edward Hospital. After completing her community service she hopes to specialise further.

'I have thoroughly enjoyed my years of study at UKZN. I have had the opportunity to be taught by passionate teachers and to interact with students from all walks of life. I am also indebted to the patients who allowed me to learn from them,’ she said.

Naidoo said choosing medicine as a career does have its risks and challenges. 'The most striking ones are exposure to HIV and TB and having to deal with sickness on a daily basis. However these are balanced by the rewards of serving the community and making a difference in one's country’, she said.


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

SMALL SCHOOL PRODUCES SIX PHDS

SMALL SCHOOL PRODUCES SIX PHDS

The School of Public Administration and Development Management in the Faculty of Management Studies is one of the smaller Schools at UKZN, yet it produces a number of PhDs annually.

Six out of 21 doctoral degrees in the College of Law and Management Studies were conferred on candidates who were supervised by academics from the School of Public Administration and Development Management during the April Graduation Ceremonies.

The School is made up of seven academics and three support staff members. All academics in the School hold PhDs. In 2010 the School produced four PhDs and this year it achieved another milestone.

Dr Vanitha Dayaram from the South African Social Security Agency’s thesis was titled: “Organizational culture and values in the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA): A Batho Pele Perspective.”

A former colleague in the School and Lecturer at UNISA, Dr Zwelibanzi Mpehle was awarded his PhD for his study on: "Multipurpose Community Centres as the primary vehicle in Service Delivery: Trends and Challenges." Both Dayaram’s and Mpehle’s thesis were supervised by Dr Pregala Pillay.

A veteran in the School, Dr Deoram Sing, supervised three candidates: Dr Dunkumarie Maharaj for a study focusing on the “Factors Impacting on good governance: A case study of service delivery in child abuse within the eThekwini Municipal District of KwaZulu-Natal”; Dr Modjadji Malahlela, Executive Director of the City of Tshwane Municipality, for a thesis titled: “Policy considerations for the management of informal businesses in a fast growing city: A case study of Polokwane Municipality”; and Dr Devan Pillay, Acting Director in the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal, whose thesis was titled: “Performance management and development system for senior managers in the public Service: A case study of KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.”

Head of School, Professor Yogi Penceliah, supervised Dr Peter van der Watt, whose thesis was titled: “Implementation of the Integrated Quality Management System Policy in Public Schools in the Ugu District”. Van der Watt retired from the Department of Education in 2010.

At a celebratory lunch hosted by the School in honour of the doctoral candidates the Dean of the Faculty of Management Studies, Professor Lesley Stainbank, commended the School for its achievement, which is in line with the Faculty’s strategic objective of increasing the number of postgraduate students and the throughput rate. 

Penceliah said: ‘This is a milestone in our School’s history and we are very proud of the achievement taking into account that this is one of the small Schools in the University.’

Professor John Mubangizi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Law and Management Studies, congratulated the School and encouraged the doctoral graduates to focus on getting their research work published with the assistance of their supervisors.


author email : langah@ukzn.ac.za

TOP AGRICULTURE GRADUATE PRODUCES STERLING WORK ON BIOFUELS

TOP AGRICULTURE GRADUATE PRODUCES STERLING WORK ON BIOFUELS

Globally, the production and use of biofuels is on the rise and the potential significance of their role in world energy balances is undeniable.  Summa cum laude Agricultural Economics graduate, Mr Garreth Sparks, identified a gap in biofuels research within the South African context and made it the subject of his Masters’ research. 

In his thesis, Sparks explains that biofuels are any type of solid, liquid or gaseous fuel which can be produced from biological material and used as a substitute for fossil fuels.  Currently they are almost exclusively produced through the processing of agricultural crops.  On the one hand, they are often punted as having the potential to reduce the reliance on finite fossil fuels and increase the value of agricultural products.  However, on the other hand, the social and environmental effects of their widespread production and use have been a considerable source of global debate. Consequently, it has been suggested that ‘perhaps no other recent economic development has more significant potential to reshape agriculture and farm policy than the emergence of a large and expanding biofuel industry.’ 

Sparks focused his research on the economic feasibility of producing biodiesel on soybean farms in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).  He concentrated on soybeans because they are the only field crop produced in sufficient quantities in KZN which the South African Industrial biofuel strategy identifies as a potential biodiesel feedstock. He developed a highly successful model ‘to predict possible farmer investment behaviour and to quantify the minimum level of support needed to stimulate biodiesel production in the study areas.’ 

Whilst biodiesel is already a relatively well-established fuel internationally, in Africa its production and use is still very much in the developmental stages. To Sparks’ knowledge, his study is the first of its kind in the country.

As predicted, the results of Sparks’ study indicated that on-farm biodiesel production is currently not an economically viable alternative to fossil fuels at either the commercial or small-scale level. ‘The incentives and commitments outlined by the current industrial biofuel strategy are inadequate to both establish and sustain a domestic biodiesel industry,’ said Sparks. 

In his recommendations, Sparks points to the need to revise and amend the current industrial biofuel strategy, the Renewable Energy White Paper, as well as the Co-operatives Act.    He said that a ‘more decisive, comprehensive and long-term policy stance’ is necessary if the SA government hopes to engage in biofuel ventures.  He also advocates the promotion of small-scale soybean oil extrusion projects to counter the necessity and costs of importing soybean oilcake and soybean oil.  In addition, ‘smallholder participation in biodiesel ventures would require an active rental market for cropland, co-ownership of the processing plant in a non-traditional co-operative or investor-owned firm, information and training, and a high level of government subsidy,’ said Sparks.

While Sparks’ research findings are significant, the key question is, “Will his results and recommendations be endorsed and acted on or will they simply fall on deaf ears?”  Sparks said a
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

SUMMA CUM LAUDE FOR RESEARCH ON BULLIES

<em>SUMMA CUM LAUDE</em> FOR RESEARCH ON BULLIES

Mrs Helen Anderson received her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology summa cum laude for research on “Mean girls’, bystanders and their victims: An investigation into relational aggression amongst girls, from a development perspective”. The thesis explores non-physical bullying by girls at school-level and its possible effects.

After completing her Bachelor of Social Science, Anderson worked as a Tax Consultant for Ernst and Young for two years before taking a break to start a family with husband, Leigh Anderson. She started her own tax consulting company named The Tax Haven at the age of 30, which is now owned and run by her husband.

In her early 40s, Mrs Anderson decided to pursue a degree in Counseling Psychology. She obtained a number of merits for her Psychology modules, and receibved her Honours degree cum laude.

The proud mother of two girls said that, having observed bullying amongst her daughters and their friends, she decided to pursue it as a research focus.

‘My research proved that, as girls grow older they develop more sophisticated ways of aggressing (eg, social exclusion, spreading rumours, undermining existing friendships, etc). These forms of aggression are more difficult to deal with, as they are not easy for others to see, or understand. As a result, the victims are less likely to expose their abuse, or to receive help. Such types of aggression may create severe psychological damage in victims and also often reflect psychological difficulties that are present in the bullies. Relational bullying, according to the older girls in the study, may lead them towards drugs/alcohol, suicide attempts, self-mutilation, social withdrawal, moving schools, etc,’ Anderson said.

She hopes that her research will encourage schools to take girl-bullying more seriously. She recommends that teachers and learners become involved in workshops that aim to bring an awareness and understanding of this kind of bullying and its consequences, as well as to help them deal with this growing problem, through teaching young girls empathy and assertiveness skills.

Bullies need to learn that relational aggression is not a healthy way to express their anger, and victims and bystanders need to learn that it is not acceptable, and should be exposed and dealt with appropriately, said Anderson.

Anderson worked at the Student Counseling Centre on the Pietermaritzburg campus in 2009 and 2010, and is now in private practice in Westville. She is also a national judge for the equestrian sport, Vaulting. 


author email : mavaneni@ukzn.ac.za

CHEMISTRY PHD GRADUATE SECURES PATENT FOR ANTI-CANCER COMPOUNDS

CHEMISTRY PHD GRADUATE SECURES PATENT FOR ANTI-CANCER COMPOUNDS

Creating chemical compounds that may one day be used to treat cancer is a huge motivation for PhD graduate and Chemistry Lecturer on the Pietermaritzburg campus, Mr Matthew Akerman.  This could well become a reality as Akerman and his supervisor, Professor Orde Munro, await the results of toxicity studies which will determine whether or not the compounds are excessively toxic to mammals.  However, the outcome looks promising as preliminary toxicology data bode well for a positive result.

Akerman’s research focused on the chemical processing of platinum group metals to develop new anti-cancer drugs.  He explained that the novel anti-cancer agents were able to prevent the growth of cancerous tissues by binding to the DNA of the cancer cell and subsequently blocking an enzyme which is critical to cell replication. ‘Once the cancer cell “realises” that there is a problem during replication, it essentially “commits suicide” and the cancer cells are eradicated,’ said Akerman.   Since the compounds worked in a very well-defined way, it made it easy to predict their action in various biological systems.  This could ultimately lead to fewer side-effects in patients receiving treatment. 

Because the compounds have the potential to make it to the drug market, Akerman and Munro have patented their work.  At this stage, the class of compounds has been secured by a provisional patent. However, if and when the drug is cleared of all the potential problems associated with its use by humans, e.g. its toxicity, a full patent will be filed.  While a full patent is very costly, a provisional patent unfortunately offers little legal protection.  ‘As our compounds are more effective than some currently commercially-available drugs, the patent could be extremely important to protect the intellectual property of our discovery,’ said Akerman.

During his research, Akerman had the privilege of collaborating with several top-quality institutions in the United States and Europe.  Although UKZN has the facilities and the expertise to synthesise the anti-cancer agents, it does not have the facilities to perform the biological evaluations necessary for a project of this nature.  The National Cancer Institute in the United States performed the in vitro studies on the compounds which proved critical to the success of the research.  Akerman’s European colleagues are involved in the toxicology studies of the compounds. 

Akerman, who completed his undergraduate studies at UKZN, was highly complimentary of the quality of the research and facilities on the Pietermaritzburg campus.   He said he would not get an opportunity to do better research anywhere else in the world.  ‘Having worked with several top-quality institutions and seeing the standard of work they are producing and yet having them interested in our work, showed me that we are involved in top-quality research in the country, which we should be proud of,’ he said.  
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

THE CHANGING FACE OF SCHIZOPHRENIA

THE CHANGING FACE OF SCHIZOPHRENIA

Professor Jonathan Burns, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine graduated on April 15 with a PhD. His dissertation titled, “Structural violence and schizophrenia: psychosocial, economic and cultural impacts on the onset of psychosis” was conducted with participants within the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that takes it difficult for a person to tell the difference between reality and what is perceived to be the reality. It is a complex illness which affects the individual’s ability to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.

According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects approximately one percent of the population and a predisposition to the illness is associated with genetics, developmental factors and the environment. Burns found that the illness is associated with psychosocial, cultural and economic factors placing individuals at risk.

He found that there was an association between risk for onset of psychosis and high income inequality at the community level. Previous experiences of trauma and the use of cannabis predicted a more acute onset of psychosis. Adherence to non-scientific beliefs about the cause of psychotic symptoms and prior consultation with traditional healers may delay access to formal mental health care and impact negatively on the prognosis of first-onset psychosis.

Burns also addressed the issue of how the environment acts through gene-environment interactions to modify risk and alter the clinical presentation and course of schizophrenia. Finally, he presented a human rights perspective on the inequities and inequalities that characterize the lives of those with serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia, resulting from psychosocial, political, economic and cultural forces in the environment.

Schizophrenia has been identified as one of the most stigmatised mental disorders. Many individuals with schizophrenia are devalued and discriminated against because of their illness. The combination of stigma, psychosocial, cultural, political and economic conditions further exert a detrimental effect on individuals with the illness by limiting opportunities and reducing self-esteem.  


author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

‘HARD WORK IS THE KEY’ SAYS AWARD-WINNING SCIENCE GRADUATE

‘HARD WORK IS THE KEY’ SAYS AWARD-WINNING SCIENCE GRADUATE

UKZN Ecological Sciences graduate, Mr Manqoba Zungu, bagged five of the 34 prizes at the Faculty of Science and Agriculture’s annual pre-graduation awards ceremony.  He proved to be the top third-year biology student in 2010 and claimed awards for Grassland Science, Plant Ecology, Plant Systematics, Behavioural Ecology and Zoology. 

Described by one of his lecturers, Dr Terry Olckers, as ‘a wonderful person who serves as an excellent role model for young students,’ Zungu grew up in rural Swayimane, close to Wartburg. He attended Trustfeed Combined School and was one of the first pupils at the school to receive a university exemption and be accepted to study at a university.

Zungu credits his two older brothers, who attended the Durban University of Technology, for inspiring him and said he was motivated to study at UKZN after attending one of the University’s Open Days on the Pietermaritzburg campus.  Biology was always one of his favourite subjects at school as he found it easy to understand and highly applicable to the world around him.   He said he ‘fell in love with ecology’ at a young age and was never in doubt as to what he wanted to pursue.  ‘I didn’t image myself doing anything else,’ said Zungu. 

For Zungu, ecology is an important discipline especially in light of the biodiversity crisis we are currently facing.  He said we are rapidly losing valuable plant and animal species in our environment due to hunting, habitat fragmentation and urbanisation.  Ecotourism is also gaining ground and is a major income generator for communities, serving as a significant commodity for upliftment, said Zungu.

Challenges dominated the first four weeks of Zungu’s academic career when he started studying on the Pietermaritzburg campus in 2008.  Originating from a poor high school with limited resources, Zungu was faced with many things for the first time. Laboratory facilities and advanced equipment were foreign to him, but because he loved what he was experiencing, he managed to ‘pull up his socks’ and overcome the challenges, ultimately coming up trumps.

The secret of his success – ‘hard work,’ says Zungu who would advocate this to anyone seeking to pursue academia. 

Presently, Zungu is studying towards an Honours degree in Ecological Sciences and, appreciating how further study will ultimately benefit his career and render him more marketable, he plans to proceed to the Masters level.  In the future, Zungu would like to enter the conservation field and said he would take pleasure in working for an institution such as KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife.  
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

MATURE STUDENT GRADUATES SUMMA CUM LAUDE

MATURE STUDENT GRADUATES <em>SUMMA CUM LAUDE</em>

Achieving her Masters degree summa cum laude at the age of 66 is not the end of the road for Mrs Elizabeth Anne Briggs, who is planning further research into Greek and Latin literature.

‘Classics as a discipline is still very much alive and relevant in the modern world, in spite of some misguided views to the contrary,’ said Briggs. ‘The Classical world and its languages (Greek and Latin) provide a rich, varied, and worthwhile field of study for both the young student in the early stage of his/her academic career, and for the older person,’ she added.

The title of Briggs’ thesis is “The parent-child relationship and the Homeric hero in the Iliad and the Odyssey”. She was driven by her love of Homeric poems, which she describes as ‘timeless and universal’.

Briggs is grateful to staff at UKZN’s Department of Classics who were very supportive. She also thanked her son who has been very supportive of her studies and who proudly accompanied her to Graduation.
author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

PHD GRADUATE EXPLORES RESIDENTIAL CARE FOR THE ELDERLY

PHD GRADUATE EXPLORES RESIDENTIAL CARE FOR THE ELDERLY

Hailing from Liberia and a family of 10 siblings, Dr Meiko Dolo has endured many challenges leading up to her graduating with a PhD in Nursing from UKZN. Dolo, who is passionate about her West African country and the elderly focussed her dissertation on the topic, “Residential Care for the Elderly in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality: a case study approach”. The findings of her study will be used to develop a model to advocate for the elderly in Liberia.

Dolo’s study aimed to describe the residential care for the elderly in the eThekwini Municipality with regards to institutional organisation, staff and residents and make recommendations for residential care in this area. Study participants included administrators, elderly residents and nursing staff from four residential care facilities.

Dolo found that an emerging theme was to assist people from a vulnerable group through quality indicators, proper admission criteria and the reasons for admission into each facility. The focus in each of the facilities was on care and service delivery to the elderly. Recurrent themes centred around “one big family”, methods of elderly care, knowledge of elderly care, relationship of control, setting boundaries, medication safety, common religious beliefs and resident satisfaction.

According to the nursing and administrative staff, successful accomplishment of the goals of each facility was due to strong bonds, staff retention, physical structure maintenance and the location of the care centre. Experiences of the elderly varied but issues discussed ranged from reasons for admission, response shift, psychosocial support, satisfaction with the care and a feeling of being well respected.

Dolo said that at a national level, Liberia has very little services for the elderly, including residential care facilities. She said, ‘In the future, I hope that my government will be able to construct some old age homes for those who may be in need. The preferred place for the elderly is the home, but due to the changes that are taking place in many families and communities, many elderly will require residential care facilities.’

When asked about her years spent away from her family in South Africa and at UKZN, Dolo’s response was, ‘My years studying at the University were very good, rewarding, as well as challenging. One of the challenges was ill health, but praise the Lord He helped me to complete it. Yes, this University is outstanding and I will recommend it to others in my country.’


author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

PHD GRADUATE JOINS THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV AND TB

PHD GRADUATE JOINS THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV AND TB

Mr Oluseye Kehinde Onajole who graduated with his PhD on April 1, believes that the war against TB and HIV in Africa and globally is not over yet.

He was recently nominated for the Sasol Postgraduate Medal by his supervisors for his achievements. His thesis was passed with no corrections by three overseas examiners and he managed to produce nine papers for his PhD.

His said his research focused on the design, synthesis and screening of series of novel polycyclic 'cage' compounds for anti-mycobacterial (tuberculosis) and anti-microbial (fungal and bacterial) activities.

‘According to the 2009 Global tuberculosis control report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that about 9.4 million cases of TB occurred globally.  Of these cases an estimated 1.4 million were HIV positive of which 78 percent were in Africa while 13 percent are located in South-East Asia,’ he said. 

An estimated 1.3 million deaths were reportedly caused by TB among HIV negative people.  South Africa has the highest percentage of HIV patients living with tuberculosis.  TB and HIV form a lethal combination. 

Onajole added that recent articles showed that KwaZulu-Natal has the highest number of patients living with multi-drug resistant (MDR) or extensively-drug resistant (XDR) strains of tuberculosis and HIV in South Africa. ‘The GGKM (Govender, Govender, Kruger and Maguire) Research Group, a group equipped with the vision to contribute to the development of cheap and highly effective drug candidates against diseases most common to Africa provided the opportunity for me to embark on this journey to design and synthesise potential drug candidates aimed at combating the increasing TB pandemic.’

Onajole says studying with the GGKM Research Group was one of the greatest decisions he has ever made. ‘My colleagues in the group both past and present made my UKZN experience both in the lab and out of the lab a memorable one.  The research environment is so amazing. We practically had everything at our disposal, thanks to support from UKZN and the NRF,’ he added.


author email : shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Following in his father’s footsteps, Mr Demarlin Govender graduated as one of the top two of the Class of 2010 at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine on April 15. His father, Dr Dan Govender teaches clinical skills to undergraduate students at the Medical School.

Govender said it has been a challenge to get to where he is. He received five distinctions in grade 12 but was not accepted at the Medical School because of the demanding entrance requirements. Instead, he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Science at the Howard College campus in 2005. He was placed in second position in his final year and graduated cum laude.  ‘When I got my place to study Meds in 2006 I was on top of the world,’ he said.

Govender received the Paediatrics Prize and 16 certificates of merit in different subjects from 2003 to 2010. He is glad to have helped fellow students, giving Physiology and Histology practicals at the Medical School.

‘Medicine is a highly rewarding career and if you love helping people then go for it,’ said Govender. He said he hopes aspirant doctors can learn from him. ‘My lecturer once told me that the only way you really know something is if you teach it to others, so my goal was to help others and in doing so to master the topic as well,’ he said.

‘The most difficult challenge in my undergraduate years was the passing away of the Medical School’s most brilliant student, Jason Duncan who tragically passed away in 2010. He was my best friend and like a big brother to me who taught me so much scholastically as well in life,’ said Govender.

He is currently doing his internship at the Prince Mshiyeni Hospital in Umlazi, where he hopes to make a difference in combating Tuberculosis and HIV. ‘I want to specialise in Paediatrics as I love working with children,’ he said. ‘I may even do plastic surgery as I’m passionate about surgery.’  
author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

UNIVERSITY FELLOWSHIP

UNIVERSITY FELLOWSHIP

The University’s prestigious Fellowship for distinguished academic achievement was presented to Professor and Chief Specialist and the Dean of the Medical School, Professor Umesh Lalloo at the Medical School’s Graduation Ceremony on April 15.

Professor Lalloo is also the Head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine, Director:  Adult HIV Programs and Executive Director: KZN Enhancing Care Initiative. He graduated from the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine (formerly the University of Natal Medical School) in 1979 and did his internship at King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban. Professor Lalloo specialised in internal medicine and trained in pulmonology. He holds fellowships of the American College of Chest Physicians for which he is also International Regent, and the Royal College of Physicians.

In 1985, he was awarded the Richard Ward Endowment Fund Fellowship to study occupational lung disease and respiratory epidemiology at the University of the Witwatersrand. He obtained his doctorate in 1992 and was among the first registered pulmonologists in South Africa. From 1993 to 1995, he was a doctoral research scholar at the National Heart and Lung Institute at the University of London. Professor Lalloo is a member of the: Health Professions Council Of South Africa Specialist Physician and Pulmonologist,  South African Pulmonology Society, American Thoracic Society, American College Of Chest Physicians, European Respiratory Society, Board of Directors of the Medical Research Council of South Africa,  and Council for Medical Schemes.

Professor Lalloo is committed to research and training in HIV, TB pulmonology and critical care. He was among the team that reported on the first cases of XDR-TB outbreak in South Africa. In the past 10 years, he has attracted over R 290 million in grants and contracts, including the recent USD 10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI). Professor Lalloo has published extensively in the areas of TB, HIV and criticalcare. He has 13 non peer reviewed, 70 peer reviewed, five book chapters and numerous local and international conference publications. He continues to supervise and train in pulmonology and critical care dating back from the time when he formed the first workers health clinic in Durban. This clinic assisted workers with occupational health problems within a system that was heavily biased against people of colour and it also served as a centre for the evaluation and documentation of the treatment of political detainees and their health status upon release from detention.


author email : online@ukzn.ac.za

PHD EXPLORES HOME LANGUAGE READING IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS

PHD EXPLORES HOME LANGUAGE READING IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS

Mrs Zinhle Primrose Nkosi’s PhD research focused on teaching learners to read in the isiZulu Home Language at Foundation Phase level. Nkosi is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education’s School of Language, Literacies, and Media Education at UKZN. She graduated on April 15.  

Nkosi, whose research was conducted in schools in Umlazi, said that one of the challenges she encountered was the lack of terminology and research concepts in isiZulu. Translating material from English was time consuming and she found herself having to coin some of the terms and having to give an isiZulu prefix to an English concept if she could not find an equivalent in isiZulu.

Her PhD research has inspired Nkosi to develop and market isiZulu to UKZN students. She and her colleagues are working on a template for an Honours Degree module which they wish to offer in isiZulu in 2012. ‘We want to see isiZulu grow and reach the highest working level in academia,’ she said.

Nkosi thanked her PhD cohort comprising UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal; the Dean of Education, Professor Michael Samuel; and Drs Murthy Maistry, Alan Pillay, Nyna Amin, Betty Govinden, Farida Patel, and Busie Alant, who supported her through the process. 


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

DISTINGUISHED TEACHERS’ AWARDS

DISTINGUISHED TEACHERS’ AWARDS

Three academics received the University’s Distinguished Teachers’ Award for teaching excellence during the Graduation Ceremonies.

 The Distinguished Teachers’ Awards recognise and reward outstanding teaching by acknowledging and valuing the knowledge and commitment of academic staff who respond creatively to the complexity of teaching and learning environments and the rapidly changing student population.

 


Mr Mark Tufts has distinguished himself in Physiology teaching strategies and methodologies. His teaching strategies range from standard traditional didactic lectures, to interactive sessions. To enhance his students’ understanding of Physiology terminology, he employs crossword puzzles and quizzes. Tufts is also involved in curriculum design. Cognizant of the diversity of his students, he adapts his teaching methods accordingly. 
 

Professor Fatima Suleman has distinguished herself as a teacher in the area of curriculum and module development. She has shown exceptional leadership in re-curriculating the modules in Pharmacy practice, using problem-based and case-based pedagogies. She has also introduced a new online module on HIV/AIDS for first year students in collaboration with Purdue University in the US and three new Masters Programmes in Pharmacy at UKZN. In addition, she has successfully championed a new innovative master programme with e-learning.

Suleman’s approach to teaching, strongly grounded in theory, is well-informed by current curriculum discourses in Higher Education and health.  Her student and peer evaluations attest to her being a reflective and dynamic teaching practitioner.

 

Over the past 30 years, Dr Helen Watson, a specialist in Geography in the School of Environmental Studies has been involved in developing
author email : online@ukzn.ac.za

FROM PARAMEDIC TO PHD

FROM PARAMEDIC TO PHD

‘I am very grateful for the opportunity that the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine (NRMSM) at UKZN created which enabled me to progress through the Honours, Masters and PhD Degrees within a 10 year period,’ said Dr Sarasvathie Reddy. Reddy graduated with a PhD in Education on April 14.

Reddy began her journey towards the doctoral degree when she enrolled for an honours degree in Education in 2000. Aspiring to research and publish in the field of education, Reddy successfully enrolled for the PhD in 2008. Whilst holding the position of Head of the Professional Provident Society (PPS) Skills Resource Facility at the NRMSM, she managed to complete her degree within a painstaking but very rewarding three-year period.

Reddy has competed in 10 Two Oceans Marathons and eight Comrades Marathons whilst juggling a full-time job, academics and being a mum to two teenage daughters. ‘It was through determination, dedication and discipline that I was able to achieve both academically and in the sporting arena,’ she said. This year she will be running her ninth Comrades Marathon.

Known for her ability to multi-task and create a balance between academics and a very active social and sporting life, Reddy continues to inspire those around her. Staff at the PPS Skill Laboratory said, ‘Dr Reddy is an inspiration to us all that through hard work and sacrifice one can surpass all obstacles and turn them into achievable goals. She is a role model, especially to all females out there, who on a daily basis struggle to reach a balance between motherhood, a full-time job and a professional career’.


author email : khanyilem1@ukzn.ac.za

CONSISTENT ACHIEVER REACHES FOR THE SKY

CONSISTENT ACHIEVER REACHES FOR THE SKY

It is not common to come across a small business Financial Administrator who flies remote controlled helicopters, and engages in National Ultimate Frisbee tournaments. It is even more uncommon to meet one who has graduated cum laude twice!

Mr Timothy Stephen was conferred with his Bachelor of Commerce Honours (BCom) Honours on April 19.  Stephen completed his BCom in Finance and Legal Studies on the Pietermaritzburg campus in 2010, graduating cum laude. His Honours degree was also awarded cum laude.

Stephen bought his first shares in the retail, health care and mining sectors during high school. He then developed an interest in business, but said, ‘Business and financial management is not my main focus, it is a means to an ends … my true dream is to be a Commercial Helicopter Pilot.’

He now works full time at Mountbatten Insurance Consultants as a Financial Administrator to raise funds for his pilot’s license and training. He recently started flying helicopters, but it will take an eight-month journey to accomplish his goal.

‘My parents encouraged me to study,’ he said. He thanked his undergraduate lecturer, Mr Barry Strydom, who encouraged him to pursue an Honours degree, which makes him more competitive in the corporate industry.

His father, Mr David Stephen also graduated in April with his third degree; Bachelor of Laws (LLB Part-time).  Stephen senior also holds a Degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Business Administration. He did his LLB to assist with the formation of a consulting company, dealing with civil engineering and legal aspects. 

Stephen is looking forward to attending the National Ultimate Frisbee Tournament at the end of April in Johannesburg.  He has been playing Ultimate Frisbee since 2007, and is part of the Pietermaritzburg team which is currently ranked number one in South Africa. 
author email : mavaneni@ukzn.ac.za

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY MASTERS DEGREE RECEIVED SUMMA CUM LAUDE

CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY MASTERS DEGREE RECEIVED <em>SUMMA CUM LAUDE</em>

Ms Laura Skead was proud to graduate with her Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology summa cum laude on April 19. She shared this special day with her mother and step parents.

Skead studied for her Bachelor of Social Sciences at the University of Cape Town, but chose to advance to honours and masters through UKZN. She said that she did research on the professors who she would be lectured by and exposed to, and decided to choose UKZN over other well recognised institutions in South Africa.  

She is fascinated by the human mind, personalities and behaviour, and wants to focus on Neuropsychology as it specialises in the structure and function of the human mind and how it influences the behaviour and psychological processes of people.

For her Masters research, Ms Skead focused on the demographics of Homicide Suicide in South Africa and worked closely with Professor Douglas Wassenaar, whom she greatly admired for his well recognised work within the field in African psychology.

Through UKZN she has worked at psychiatric institutions like Towns Hill and Fort Napier. She also had the opportunity to work with patients in Greys Hospital and the Sunshine Children’s home in Pietermaritzburg as part of UKZNs community engagement programmes.

 Ms Skead is currently doing a one year internship through the Gauteng Department of Health, where she works at clinics around Soweto.    


author email : mavaneni@ukzn.ac.za

RECORD BREAKER

RECORD BREAKER

Ms Emma Durden completed her PhD at UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) in a record two years, half the time a normal PhD would take. This in addition to working fulltime in the consultancy company she started in 1997.

Durden hopes that her theses, titled “Staging empowerment? An investigation into participation and development in HIV and AIDS theatre projects”, will inspire others to partner with communities and become agents of social change. Her company consults for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and promotes the use of industrial theatre for training, health and social issues for large companies like NPC Cement and Eskom. 

Reflecting on the past two years, Durden said: ‘It was a big juggling act, I had to delegate some of my contract work to trusted colleagues, and every waking moment was consumed by my research.’

Durden has been an active participant in the CCMS over the years, serving as an external examiner, guest lecturer, and student research supervisor.  She also worked as an editorial consultant for the Centre’s research publications. 


author email : mavaneni@ukzn.ac.za

MODEL SCHOLAR GRADUATES WITH TOP HONOURS

MODEL SCHOLAR GRADUATES WITH TOP HONOURS

Ms Lisa Burgdorf’s academic record is testimony to her claim that she put every ounce of energy into her degree.  With a record number of Certificates of Merit – 18 to be exact – and Deans Commendations for all her years of study, it represents the ultimate in academic performance, one to which many a student aspires. 

Qualifying with a BSc degree in Dietetics summa cum laude, Burgdorf believes her success lies in ‘really, really hard work.’ A desire to always know more and a genuine interest in her course, not to mention brilliant lecturers and an amazing husband, also helped her out.  She said she really enjoyed applying her mind and making sense of subjects that initially seemed completely mind-boggling.  Also, her perceptions of certain topics have changed now that she understands more about them – ‘a real lesson in the danger of forming opinions in ignorance,’ said Burgdorf. 

Challenges were part and parcel of Burgdorf’s degree which she describes as ‘tough and ‘hugely challenging.’ Financially, she wasn’t always sure things were going to work out but thanks to her husband’s hard work and financial support, she managed to make ends meet.  Having lost her mother at an early age, Burgdorf was dealt another blow in her second year of study when her father died.  Although she experienced great difficulty, she was able to push through the hard times and come out on top.  Burgdorf said, ‘I can honestly say that my sheer enjoyment of the degree kept me motivated through the more challenging times.’

Currently completing her Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics, Burgdorf started out on a different academic path, qualifying with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Journalism from Rhodes University.  However, after working for six years, she realised she was ‘completely unqualified for anything.’  While living in England she developed an interest in food therapy which prompted her to enroll for a correspondence course in nutrition.  This, however, only left her with more questions and once back in South Africa, she decided to pursue Dietetics.

Burgdorf has huge respect for all the UKZN staff members in the discipline of Dietetics.  ‘They are amazingly knowledgeable, professional and supportive,’ she said.  Etched in her memory from first year is a comment made by the then Head of Department, Professor Eleni Maunder.  ‘She welcomed us as her colleagues.  I thought it was the most wonderful thing to say, and I think it is really important for students to remember this during their studies,’ said Burgdorf.  She also advocates being open to change and commented that she felt so convinced about certain things when she started her degree only to find that she has done a ‘complete about-turn’ which she says is ‘humbling’.  

Next year Burgdorf will complete her years’ community service in a state hospital and thereafter, she sees herself pursuing clinical dietetics although she hasn’t ruled out further study towards a Masters degree.   For the time being she can bask in the satisfaction of knowing that she has made it through all the ‘grueling’ exams and ‘high-tech chemistry pracs.’  author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

PHD EXAMINES THE MANAGEMENT OF HIV/AIDS

PHD EXAMINES THE MANAGEMENT OF HIV/AIDS

Senior lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Dr Panjasaram (Vassie) Naidoo graduated with a PhD in Community Health from the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine on April 15. Naidoo’s thesis, titled “Evaluation of the clinical and drug management of HIV/AIDS patients in the private health care sector of the eThekwini metro of KwaZulu-Natal. Sharing models and lessons for application in the public health care sector” aimed to establish the number of medical practitioners in the private healthcare sector that managed HIV/AIDS patients.

Naidoo found that since 1996 and the introduction of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, many doctors trained before this date would not have received any formal training in the management of HIV and AIDS patients. She said, ‘It is very important that these doctors constantly update their knowledge and obtain information in order to practise high-quality medicine. Although private sector doctors are the backbone of treatment service in many countries, caring for patients with HIV brings a whole new set of challenges and difficulties’.

Naidoo’s study included 931 participants from the Durban metropolitan area. Only 235 of these doctors indicated that they managed HIV infected patients. Twelve doctors did not specify their reasons for not managing HIV patients whilst two doctors indicated that due to inadequate knowledge they did not manage HIV and AIDS patients. Significantly younger (recently qualified) doctors treated HIV/AIDS patients. Most doctors (76.3 percent) expressed a need for more training/knowledge on the management of HIV patients.

The majority of the participants (92.4 percent) obtained information on HIV and AIDS from journals, Continuing Medical Education (CME), textbooks, pharmaceutical representatives, workshops, colleagues and conferences. One hundred and thirty three (77.8 percent) doctors  were willing to manage public sector HIV and AIDS patients, with 105 (78.9 percent) reporting adequate knowledge, 99 (74.4 percent) adequate time, and 83 (62.4 percent) adequate infrastructure. Of the 38 (22.2 percent) that were unwilling to manage these patients, more than 80 percent cited a lack of time, knowledge and infrastructure.

Naidoo’s study indicates a potential within the private healthcare sector to recruit expertise to manage HIV/AIDS patients in the public healthcare sector, thus removing the current human resource constraints experienced in this sector. She said, ‘Many private sector doctors are willing to manage public sector HIV and AIDS patients in the eThekwini Metro, potentially removing some of the current burden on the public health sector.’


author email : francism@ukzn.ac.za

MASTERS GRADUATE PROMOTES CONSERVATION IN AFRICA

MASTERS GRADUATE PROMOTES CONSERVATION IN AFRICA

Summa cum laude Masters in Geography Science Graduate, Ms Michelle Dye is paving the way for young professionals entering careers in Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Her thesis focused on using remote sensing techniques to discriminate between the ages of forest in plantations in KwaZulu-Natal. ‘I enjoy the field of remote sensing as there is so much you can do using various types of imagery taken from an aircraft and space-borne platforms,’ said Ms Dye who completed her Master’s Degree in a year and a half as she started working full time during the second year.

Dye had taken a gap year in Scotland and was not entirely certain if she would return to further her studies. However UKZN’s School of Environmental Sciences Professor Onisimo and Dr Riyad Ismail suggested she register for a Masters Degree.

Dye is currently working at the African Conservation Trust (ACT), a non-profit organisation based in Pietermaritzburg. She works as a GIS specialist providing support to various projects such as the Rock Art Mapping Project which involves 3D laser scanning of rock art, and the Heritage Mapping Unit Project which digitally preserves heritage buildings in KwaZulu-Natal.

She hopes her success will motivate prospective and current students who wish to pursue a similar career.


author email : nyikana@ukzn.ac.za

DOUBLE JOY FOR MASTERS GRADUATE

DOUBLE JOY FOR MASTERS GRADUATE

Five days before giving birth to her first child, Ms Samantha Govender received the news that she had passed her Masters degree.

Combining pregnancy with postgraduate studies was not easy, but Govender allowed nothing stop her from completing her Masters in Communication Pathology-Audiology. A tutor at UKZN’s Department of Audiology, her research focused on Auditory Monitoring in patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) which her uncle suffered from.

‘I was inspired to do research after my uncle who was very close to me was diagnosed with CKD. I noticed his hearing deteriorated as the disease progressed and so my interest grew. My uncle passed away from complete renal failure and my dissertation was dedicated to his memory,’ she added.

She conducted her study on two audiometric procedures, establishing which of the two were best suited for monitoring hearing in this population.

Govender faced many challenges. ‘I grew emotional at times and felt the pressure but I coped well because I had a good pregnancy,’ she added. She acknowledged her husband, Mr Vevan Govender, for his support and thanked him for standing by her.

While Govender feels that women have an innate ability to multi-task, they also tend to underestimate their own capabilities as well as their ability to persevere. ‘My advice to all women and female students is to never put any aspect of your life on hold; rather strike a balance between the different areas and you will not only be surprised at your ability to cope but will also feel enriched and alive,’ she said. 

Govender intends to publish articles based on her thesis. Her next step is to register for her PhD studies. 


author email : shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

HDSS STAFF GO THE EXTRA MILE

HDSS STAFF GO THE EXTRA MILE

In preparation for Graduation each year, degree certificates are printed and then checked individually by the Graduation Office to ensure all is correct before they are sent to the Dean of the Faculty for signing.

 

This year the printing of certificates was delayed. In order to ensure their students' degree certificates were checked and signed timeously, management and staff of the Humanities, Development and Social Sciences (HDSS) Faculty Office joined in and assisted the Graduation Office in checking the certificates. The checked certificates were then passed to the Dean who signed them.

 

An example of the goodwill and co-operation of all those who went the extra mile to make Graduation 2011 the success it was! 


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za