UKZN WOMEN DOMINATE NATIONAL STATISTICS AWARDS

UKZN WOMEN DOMINATE NATIONAL STATISTICS AWARDS

UKZN’s School of Statistics and Actuarial Science upheld its tradition of excellence when two of its Masters students won prizes in the 2010 South African Statistics Association (SASA) Postgraduate Student Paper Competition. 

Ms Lise Werner and Ms Nonhlanhla Yende were placed first and third in the competition for their papers which focused on HIV and AIDS research.  They join previous UZKN winners of national statistics prizes – students from UKZN’s School of Statistics and Actuarial Science regularly win national Honours project prizes and last year the prize for the best PhD paper in statistics went to a UKZN student in Financial Mathematics.

The national competition, which is sponsored by Statistics South Africa, is open to all students enrolled for Masters or PhDs in Statistics at South African tertiary institutions.  The adjudication process follows a strict protocol and, even though the judges are from the various universities, the names and institutions of the entrants are removed so as to eliminate any bias.  

Both supervised by Dr Henry Mwambi from Pietermaritzburg, Ms Werner and Ms Yende are currently employed as statisticians by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), based at UKZN’s Medical School campus.  They were both extremely excited when they heard they had won the prizes as they did not expect to win.  “I had sent in my paper without expecting anything and then out of the blue we get this email congratulating us,” said Ms Werner. 

Ms Werner’s research involved a cohort of women in the CAPRISA 002: Acute Infection Study.  She focused on what happens in acute HIV infection before antiretroviral therapy (ARV) treatment is implemented.  Specifically, she looked at CD4 counts and viral loads, fitting statistical models to the data.  She said that she found it inspiring to play a part in the recent microbicide gel clinical trial.  “It feels really good to be a part of something which is making a big difference in the HIV field,” she said.

Ms Yende identified biomedical and socio-demographic factors or variables associated with the higher rate of increase or recovery in CD4 + count in patients on ARVs. The most challenging aspect of her research was the application of the statistical method using the SAS software as well as juggling study and full-time work.

The School of Religion and Theology is planting new seeds for research focusing on the relationship between Food and Religion. This idea was explored at a Symposium on Food and Religion at the Howard College campus on September 9.

 

Co-ordinated by Professor Pratap Kumar who lectures in Hindu Studies and Ms Beverly Vencatsamy, a Lecturer in Comparative Religion, the Symposium explored the relationship between food and religion from different religious perspectives. Presentations by three academics shed interesting light on the linkage between food, its symbolism and religion.

 

Professor Kumar explored the relationship between food both in the context of ritual and social relations and provided an analysis of how in fundamental ways the Hindu notions of food, ritual and cosmology are linked. “Such relationships have deeper implications for how society is structured in the South Asian context based on the exchange of food and marital relationships,” he said. 


 

“The physical body must be kept healthy so that the body and soul will be kept healthy,” said Professor Suleman Dangor who also lectures at the School.  He analysed the relationship between Halaal foods in Islam and Muslim identity construction and clarified that while there is general perception that Halaal applies to meat products, Halaal in a broader context refers to a wider notion of food that include vegetarian and sea food as well as various meat products.

 

Presenting on New Religious Movements, former lecturer at the School, Dr Dale Wallace analysed food from the perspective of Pagan religious practice which is a nature-based tradition. It looks at food in a more holistic way, linking it with the ancestors and divinity.

 

“In our justice system, there is no right that is considered to be more important than the other,” said Human Rights Lawyer and NRF-rated researcher Dr Ann Skelton at the Faculty of Law’s Centenary Lecture on the Pietermaritzburg campus on September 10.

The lecture was part of a series of lectures to mark the celebration of 100 years of Higher Education in KwaZulu-Natal and the teaching of law since 1910. Dr Skelton examined the juxtaposition between a child’s right to privacy and the right to freedom of expression. 

Dr Skelton graduated with a BA LLB from the University in 1985. She holds an LLD (Doctor of Laws degree) from the University of Pretoria and has worked as a human rights lawyer for the past 20 years. She has specialised as a children’s rights lawyer since 1992.

Dr Skelton said that children’s rights lawyers often find themselves at odds with other human rights lawyers because the issues that they handle can sometimes militate against one another.

However she warned that whilst children’s rights need protection, they should not be used to distort issues or obscure the need to protect other rights. Nevertheless, the primacy of children’s rights in South Africa is praiseworthy. “South Africa has one of the most comprehensive children’s rights section in the world and this is an example of a very good children’s rights clause,” added Dr Skelton.

“Sometimes we have to limit freedoms because of the need to balance rights and take account of the vulnerability of children,” said Dr Skelton. She made an example of the Eugene Terreblanche murder trial, in which one of the accused is a minor, where various media groups have put in an application to be able to sit in on the trial because they say that the matter is in the public interest.

She added that advocates in both camps tend to take a moral high ground position. The advocates for media always emphas
author email : shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

BOOK LAUNCH CELEBRATES UKZN ECOLOGIST’S LABOUR OF LOVE

BOOK LAUNCH CELEBRATES UKZN ECOLOGIST’S LABOUR OF LOVE

The official launch of Bats of Southern and Central Africa: A Biogeographic and Taxonomic Synthesis, at the Durban Natural Science Museum on September 15, represented the culmination of three years solid work for Dr M Corrie Schoeman, a lecturer in UKZN’s School of Biological and Conservation Sciences.

Dr Schoeman, who is an evolutionary/community ecologist, is one of four authors of this 590 page full-colour book which contains an extraordinary wealth of information on 116 species of bats known to occur in southern and central Africa.  The other co-authors are Professor Ara Monadjem from the University of Swaziland, Professor Peter John Taylor from the University of Venda and Dr Woody Cotterill from the University of Cape Town. 

The book includes chapters on the evolution, biogeography, ecology and echolocation of bats, as well as a history of bat research.  It contains full-colour distribution maps which were developed with Maxent models of more than 6 000 species-locality records based on museum specimens, personally identified by one of the authors, emanating from 15 museum collections around the world.

Bats of Southern and Central Africa is published by Wits University Press, with the support of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).  According to Dr Schoeman, “The beauty of the book is that it is geared to all mammalogists, but is also of great interest to the layman.” It comes complete with detailed character matrices that make for easy identification in the field as well as from specimens in a museum.

At the launch, which was hosted by Wits University Press, the Durban Natural Science Museum and Bats UKZN, Dr Schoeman and Professor Taylor engaged the audience with a joint presentation titled Beyond 2010, providing a launch pad for future research.  Professor Taylor focused on his research, in collaboration with Professor Monadjem, at local spatial scales which deals with the control of insect pests by bats, while Dr Schoeman concentrated on his work at the macro-ecological scale looking at the patterns and processes of bat diversity across the African continent. 

In his review of Bats of Southern and Central Africa, Dr Steven M Goodman, from the world-famous Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, said: “It is a synthesis of over a century of research in the southern portion of the continent.  The authors, some of the foremost in the study of African bats, have done an exceptional job in making this information available to natural historians, bat enthusiasts, and scientists alike.  There is vitality and precision to the text that clearly reflects their intimate knowledge of these animals in the field and their detailed studies of specimens in the museums around the world.”
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

NEW BOOK ON NGOS IN KERALA BY SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR

NEW BOOK ON NGOS IN KERALA BY SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR

NGOs in Kerala: Coherence and Incongruity by Professor Radhamany Sooryamoorthy, an Associate Professor in Sociology at UKZN reiterates the integral role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in development in third world countries.

The book resulting out of a quantitative analysis of 367 NGOs in the State of Kerala, South India emphasises the need for coherence between objectives, strategies, programmes and beneficiaries of NGOs to enable their success.   A significant discovery documented in the book is the existence of “incongruity and incoherence” among many of the 367 NGOs that had come under scrutiny.

His analysis indicates, however that despite challenging circumstances, NGOs have seen a growth in terms of the type of services they provide and outreach to communities over the last 20 years, making them “indispensible”. According to Professor Sooryamoorthy, developing societies in the Asian and African continents have been dependent on NGOs.

“The position NGOs have taken in assisting, complementing and supporting developmental activities worldwide is well-acknowledged and recognised. Rightly called the `magic bullets’, NGOs often supplement the efforts of governments in development,” said Professor Sooryamoorthy.

Professor Sooryamoorthy said the trends of NGO activity in the region would be useful to NGOs in other developing countries.  Points he puts forth in his book include: that NGOS emerge in a society to address problems relating to poverty, unemployment, health and lack of basic facilities; an NGO will change its “complexion” having achieved its initial objective and attend to new needs; and a correlation exists between the type of NGO and the area of its origin, which in turn depends on the needs of specific communities.

Professor Sooryamoorthy’s interest in NGOs grew following a stint assisting in a research study at the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), an NGO aimed at popularising science, in 1986 after obtaining his Masters in Sociology degree.

Professor Sooryamoorthy said his experience of researching and writing this, his eighth book, had been a pleasure in that the data had opened new insights into the realities of life, expanded his knowledge base on NGOs, and would be a benefit to others within the NGO sector.

“It is always nice to see your name on the cover page of a book, like seeing something new for the first time in your life. It is your creation, you look at it again and again, touch it, occasionally you hold it in your hands, look at some of its pages, and read here and there. You never lose your interest in the books you have produced,” he added.

Professor Sooryamoorthy’s earlier publications in this area include: Science in Participatory Development and NGOs in India: A Cross Sectional Study.


author email : maharajne@ukzn.ac.za

DOCUMENTARY ON STREET LIFE TO BE PRESENTED AT SOCIAL WORK CONFERENCE

DOCUMENTARY ON STREET LIFE TO BE PRESENTED AT SOCIAL WORK CONFERENCE

Ms Ingrid Scharer sthus from Social Work and Ms Robin Marie Willis from Drama, both Master’s candidates at UKZN have teamed up, under the leadership of Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul and Dr Chris Hurst, to work with youth on the streets of Durban to produce a documentary on street life.  The four youth: Delani, Xolani, Andile and Menzi will be joining the team to do a presentation at the national conference of the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions from September 26-28.

The video is designed to undertake education in the townships in an effort to prevent children from leaving their homes and coming onto the streets and to do street education on non-violent means of conflict resolution.  The youth are excited about going to Cape Town to present their work and they are delighted that they are engaging in constructive activity and change efforts.  Ingrid’s and Robin’s participatory and inclusive ways of working with the youth are informed by critical and emancipatory paradigms.  

The team is indebted to the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, South Africa for the generous support that made their work on the streets possible.   The precursor to this project was a research project lead by Professor Sewpaul with a grant from the South African - Netherlands Partnerships for Alternatives in Research and Development (SANPAD).  The policy and practice imperatives that emerged from that research informed further work and ongoing research.


author email : sewpaul@ukzn.ac.za

COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM

COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM

The College of Health Sciences’ annual Research Symposium from September 14-15 highlighted research output in the College.

 

The Symposium attracted a host of health professionals, students, and members of the general public.

 

The annual Symposium is designed to showcase and highlight the recent scientific, clinical, laboratory-based and community-based research from the two Faculties that constitute the College and to foster collaborative research studies.

 

In her welcome address, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack said that in translating the University’s research goals, the College subscribes to an underpinning and overarching research ethos in all its academic activities, especially research-led teaching and learning and evidence-based best practice.

 

“The College also subscribes to multi-disciplinary research recognising that the burden of disease in the country necessitates multi-professional healthcare teams [that] work towards shared goals related to health outcomes,” she said.

 

“This annual symposium provides an invaluable opportunity for advancing multidisciplinary, consolidated, comprehensive research to inform teaching, clinical practice and service,” she added.

 

The symposium comprised of an array of oral and poster presentations (totalling 64) on research projects, current research initiatives, and research opportunities within the Health Sciences.

 

Topics ranged from The Effects of Axial Loading on the Posture of African Female Adolescents in Rural KwaZulu-Natal,
author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

UKZN STUDENTS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT SCRUTINIZE CAMPAIGN

UKZN STUDENTS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT SCRUTINIZE CAMPAIGN

UKZN students enjoyed a vibrant Scrutinize campaign organized by DramAidE, a non-governmental organisation at the Howard College campus, on September 16.

 

The event was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Johns Hopkins Health and Education South Africa (JHHESA). DramAidE’s role is to implement the Scrutinize concept at grass-roots level through training student peer educators and offering support.

 

Some of the highlights of the event for the students were seeing local celebrities, Mr Fezile Makhanya, Comedian, Mr Joey Rasdien, and Kwaito stars, ‘Big NUZ’ who provided the ‘edutainment’ element of the day’s programme. Themes were extracted from the Scrutinize campaign’s animerts, as seen on South African television, and students participated in activities intended to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS prevention and highlight the severity of the pandemic amongst tertiary students.

 

“We have taken the Scrutinize campaign to several institutions throughout South Africa and decided that since we are based at UKZN, this campus would need to be part of the Scrutinize craze amongst the youth,” said Ms Karen Peters a DramAidE staff member.

 

DramAidE has worked with the University’s Campus HIV/AIDS Support Unit and peer-educators who mobilised students during the campaign for three days prior to the event. Activities hosted by the peer educators included evening talk shows in residences, a candle-lighting ceremony and a hip-hop dance competition. Flyers were distributed and posters were put up. A Scrutinize mural was created outside the Rick Turner Student Union building.


author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za

STUDENTS ENCOURAGED TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESSES

STUDENTS ENCOURAGED TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESSES

The Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted a lecture on the Howard College campus to inform students about business and career opportunities available in the growing Renewable Energy sector.

The lecture presented by Mr Florian Kroeber from Astrum Energy is part of the OPPSHOP series which attempts to instil a culture of entrepreneurship amongst students. The Director of the Centre, Professor Shahida Cassim, said that the OPPSHOP workshops aim at inspiring students to consider business ideas during their time at university.

Mr Kroeber talked about the factors contributing to the growth of demand for renewable energy, the commercial applications within the sector and market opportunities in various applications, which led to the discussion of business, and career opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

He pointed out that about 25 percent of South Africa’s population still had no access to electricity. Servicing this segment and dealing with the electricity demand for economic growth poses huge challenges for South Africa. The CO2 emission from the current coal supply is also problematic. The solution suggested by Mr Kroeber is market liberalisation, which will allow independent power producers to operate.

Mr Kroeber reviewed the proportions of global power supply coming from alternative power options. He pointed out that wind energy was showing signs of being the most powerful.

Potential job and business opportunities in the sector include project development, environmental impact consulting, process consulting, demand site management, research and development, components and equipment manufacturing, etc.

Mr Kroeber undertook an interesting assessment of the various opportunities by examining the entry requirements; start up capital; revenue streams; opportunities and risks associated with each. He encouraged students to undertake this type of analysis as a first step in starting their own businesses.

author email : shabangus@ukzn.ac.za

OPENING OF NEW HOCKEY TURF ON THE PIETERMARITZBURG CAMPUS

OPENING OF NEW HOCKEY TURF ON THE PIETERMARITZBURG CAMPUS

A multi-million rand new Hockey Turf was recently officially opened at the Pietermaritzburg campus Peter Booysen Sports Park. Guest speaker for the opening was former University, Natal and South African Captain and men’s and women's coach, Mr Brian Edwards. Mr Edwards paid tribute to the University's contribution to hockey in the region.

 

Former Executive Dean of Students, Mr Trevor Wills who spoke on behalf of the University, made special mention of the efforts put in by stakeholders. Pietermaritzburg campus Hockey coach, Mr Darryn Gallagher spoke on behalf of the Hockey Club, thanking the University for its financial commitment to this project and the major boost it has given the sport.


author email : chettyku@ukzn.ac.za

OUR SPECIAL SUMMER VISITOR

OUR SPECIAL SUMMER VISITOR

Summer is on its way and we await the arrival of a very special visitor to UKZN - a single Eurasian Nightjar that spends the summer in Msinsi Nature Reserve, on the Howard College campus. The nightjar escapes the cold northern hemisphere winter, migrating all the way from Siberia and returning each year to sit out the hot summer days on the same branch and hunting insects on the wing at night.

The Nightjar left us on the March 23 and we now eagerly await its return. The Msinsi Nature reserve is managed by the UKZN Environment Committee and can be found off Entrance 10 on Francois Road.
author email : uken@ukzn.ac.za