Six women scientists at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) scooped several national awards in various categories at the prestigious annual Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) Women in Science Awards (WISA). The announcement was made by Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor for outstanding scientific contributions to advance science and build the knowledge base in their respective disciplines.

Awards in the following three categories were made to:

·         Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim the winner of the Distinguished Women in Science: Life, Natural and Engineering Sciences Award. Professor Abdool Karim is an internationally recognised expert on HIV and AIDS.

·         Associate Professor Deevia Bhana the second runner-up in the Distinguished Women in Science: Social Sciences and Humanities category. Professor Bhana is both nationally and internationally regarded as a pioneer in the field of South African schooling and childhood sexualities.

·         The winner of the Distinguished Young Women in Science: Social Sciences and Humanities Award was made to Associate Professor Pearl Sithole for her sustained contribution in the areas of gender and development, traditional governance systems and the politics of knowledge production.

·         Doctoral Fellowships were awarded to: Ms Tricia Naicker whose research focuses on the synthesis of novel chiral catalysts, which play a vital role in the synthesis of all new and existing drugs and Ms Karen Pillay whose research interest is in amyloid diseases, in particular type II diabetes.

·         &l
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All eyes have been on the City of Durban since it was announced that it will host the Seventeenth Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and CMP 7 from November 28 to December 9. Twenty thousand delegates, including heads of states and governments from more than 100 countries will converge on the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conventional Centre (ICC) for the Conference.


UKZN alumnus and Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Dr Kumi Naidoo and Fundraising Director of Greenpeace Africa, Mr Melvyn Gattinoni paid an all-day visit to the Westville campus on August 24 to discuss potential collaboration between Greenpeace and the University.


There are certain things many of us take for granted, such as three meals per day, pure water and sanitation, yet all of these are affected by climate change. ‘In virtually every country around the world today the gap between the rich and poor is growing at an astronomical rate…and this then raises some major questions about what we actually expect out of a very complicated process of UN negotiations that is entailed by the climate change event that will take place at the end of the year,’ said Naidoo.


Naidoo and Gattinoni met with International Relations staff and the University Dean of Research, Professor Cheryl Potgieter. Naidoo also gave a lecture to postgraduate students enrolled in Environmental Science programmes, and presented a public lecture on "The Role of South African Higher Education in Greening the Revolution".


‘We need to realise that the climate crisis is not something that is going to happen in the future. It is happening now,’ cautioned Naidoo who, apart from

USolwazi Mike Perrin ugcotshwe yiNyuvesi njengoSolwazi ogcwele esikoleni sakwaBiological and Conservation Sciences waphinde waqokwa njengelunga leRoyal Society yaseNingizimu Africa.

UPerrin wakhethwa ngengoSihlalo weZoology eNyuvesi endala yaseNatali ngokuphela kwa1981, waphinda wasebenza ngengoSihlalo wakwaZoology iminyaka eminingi. UPerrin wasebenza njengoMphathi womkhakha wezesayensi esikhungweni saseMgungundlovu lapho wayengomunye ababe nomthelela ekusungulweni kweScience Foundation Programme. Njengamanje uyilungu lase-UKZN noMqondisi weResearch Centre for African Parrot Conservation.

Noma ucwaningo lwakhe ngaphambilini lwalubhekisisa impilo yezinhlobonhlobo zamagundane, okwamanje ucwaningo lwakhe lubheka ukuphila nokulondwa kwezinhlobonhlobo zezinyoni. Ucwaningo lwakhe luphinde lubheke isiqiwi sezinyoni iLilian’s  Lovebirds eMalawi; ukubanjwa kwezinyoni i-Africa Grey Parrots e-Uganda, kanye nocwaningo ngemvelaphi yamaCape Parrot, ebambisene noDokotela uSandi Willows-Munro wesikole sakwaBiochemistry, Genetics and Microbiology. 

Esebenza noSolwazi Barry Lovegrove kanye noDokotela Mark Brown, Kamuva uPerrin ubheke inyoni engajwayelekile,  iVasa Parrot yaseMadagascar. Uzothula imiphumela yalolucwaningo  enqunqutheleni i-Australasian Ornithological Congress eCairns, e-Australia ngoMandulo.

Kamuva uPerrin uxoxisana nabeSouth African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) neConvention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ukuvikela ukuthengiswa kwalezi zinyoni zase-Africa okungekho emthethweni. Uphinde wakhethwa njengelinye lamalunga eqembu locaningo elibizwa nge-International Parrot Research Group elibheka kabusha ucwaningo lwe-International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Parrot Action Plan yonyaka ka2000 asebenza kulona phambilini.

UPerrin usanda kuqeda ukubhala incwadi ebizwa ngokuthi iParrots of Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands, eshicilelwa iWits University Press. Ngonyaka ozayo, uhlela ukwenza olunye ucwaningo  ngamaGrey-headed Lovebird eMadagascar nokuya kobheka inyoni engatholakali kalula iSwindern’s Lovebird eWest Africa.

Senior Research Professor at UKZN’s School of Mathematical Sciences, Professor Jacek Banasiak is the Editor-in-Chief of the relaunched journal, Afrika Matematika.

Afrika Matematika is a journal of the African Mathematical Union (AMU). The AMU is dedicated to the development of mathematics in Africa including communicating with the international community in order to bring new developments in mathematics to the continent.

While the journal has been published since 1978, it was relaunched in 2010. Contributors have been widened to include distinguished mathematicians from various African countries, and from other continents. The journal is open to research articles in all areas of mathematics and their applications.

 Afrika Matematika also publishes commissioned survey articles on topics of broad current interest in the mathematical community, including more general topics such as history and philosophy of mathematics and mathematical education. ‘Scrutiny and selection of articles is by the accepted standards of peer review, drawing on the competence of specialist referees worldwide,’ Banasiak said.

Banasiak who was appointed at Editor-in-Chief in 2009 said that at first he did not know what to do but he told himself that, ‘If you cannot do something small, do it big.’ The first issue of the revamped journal was published in April 2011 by Springer Publishers.  As the Editor Banasiak handles most of the work on his own but still manages to supervise postgraduate Masters and PhD students.

Bright young minds from the School of Mathematics, Ms Sinehlanhla Sikhosana and Ms Sinehlanhla Sihlangu are setting high standards of academic success in a male-dominated scientific field.

Sikhosana and Sihlangu were both born and raised in KwaZulu-Natal. Sihlangu is a third year student, while Sikhosana is in her first year. Due to their high Matric aggregates in Mathematics and Science, the students were amongst six students who were awarded prestigious bursaries enabling them to pursue a career in Mathematics at UKZN. This bursary initiative was implemented through a partnership with, the South African Square Kilometre Array (SKA), UKZN’s Astrophysics and Cosmology Research Unit (ACRU) and the National Research Fund (NRF). This bursary is called the “Targeted Undergraduate Programme”.

Based on the Westville campus, the ACRU is engaged in the scientific study of stars, galaxies and the universe.  The Unit also aims to increase awareness of astrophysics and cosmology by informing the public of the latest developments in these fields.

The ACRU has a dynamic astronomy outreach programme that invites both primary and secondary school learners to take part in astronomy activities and workshops.  Through this outreach programme the Unit co-ordinates an Astronomy Career Week that sees many schools visit the University to learn more about astronomy. 

‘During high school, I was interested in subjects that had an analytical element and had problem solving equations...these required that I learn to be disciplined and focused, thus laying the foundations that I need in life in order to succeed in all my current academic endeavours,’ said Sihlangu.

The pair shares a passion for Mathematics, Physics, Electronic Engineering Astronomy and Cosmology. They are grateful to their families for encouraging them to excel. ‘ My late father once told me that I must excel in my studies and make him proud...that memory and the rest of my family’s encouragement are key in my efforts to succeed and make them proud...because, I aim to use this profession to eventually take care of my mother,’ said Sikhosana.

Researcher and lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Dr Pholoho Morojele’s article titled: “What does it mean to be a boy? Implications for girls’ and boys’ schooling experiences in Lesotho rural schools”, has been published in the International journal, Gender and Education.

Morojele, who started life as a herd boy in rural Lesotho, had to overcome what he describes as ‘the shackles of poverty, alienation and perceived unintelligibility associated with people from rural communities’ to get where he is today.

He points out that ‘Gender and Education prides itself about what it calls “Peer Review Integrity”, denoting that articles published in it undergo rigorous peer-review processes.’ In a congratulatory letter to Morojele, Professor Relebohile Moletsane, JL Dube Chair in Rural Education said: ‘very few researchers from the third world countries make it to this journal.’

The article foregrounds the researcher’s childhood memories and draws on an ethnographic study conducted for nine months in Lesotho schools.


‘It shows how being a boy is closely linked to certain qualities that every boy has to perfect. It provides evidence on how mastery of hegemonic masculinities manifests in acts of gender-based violence such as domestic violence, rape, gender-motivated fights, malicious jilting of girlfriends etc.’

Morojele noted that some boys, in pursuit of these values, undermined female teachers in ways that included lack of co-operation during sports and class attendance. ‘The concept of “Heir Masculinities” is introduced as a potential new area of research and theorisation in gender and masculinities studies. By intersecting childhood memory and empirical data, the article enabled a trans-generational analysis of gender dynamics in context. The “insider” and “outsider” perspectives that this approach allows for, provide a nuanced and deep analysis that illuminated the cultural architecture in the formation of gender in Lesotho schools.’

The article identifies a paradox in the dynamics of masculinities – ‘whereas boys’ investment in hegemonic masculinities is the source of power and social approval, the
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Six students from different Schools in the Faculty of Science and Agriculture have started a student organisation called Commercial Crops Students’ Organisation (CCSO), which is an associate member of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA). The IFSA is a global network for students in Forest Sciences. It aims to facilitate global co-operation among Forest Sciences students in order to broaden knowledge and understanding to achieve a sustainable future for our forests, and to provide a voice for youth in international and local forest policy processes.

The first IFSA Southern Africa Regional Meeting, hosted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) was held in George in July. Over 60 students representing different forestry institutions (NMMU, Stellenbosch University, Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry, UKZN and the University of Venda) in South Africa and Kyoto University, Japan were present. The meeting was organised around the theme “Forestry in 3D – Sustainability”. A meeting of this sort and magnitude has never been held before. The three-day meeting comprised of theme-related presentations, a field trip, discussions and feedback sessions.

Although UKZN has officially closed down its Forestry Department, the six students feel that the University can still nurture many young and emerging scientists in forestry-related fields who will contribute to the sustainable future of national and global forests.

‘We are still a young unregistered organisation within UKZN, but I am pleased that we have been able to showcase the uniqueness of the research UKZN offers within Forestry Sciences,’ said CCSO Chairperson and co-founder, Mr Matabaro Ziganira. ‘The quality of research is high at UKZN and this has been appreciated by students from other universities present during the meetings.’ During the George meeting the CCSO participated in the planting of yellowwood trees on the NMMU campus to commemorate the International Year of Forests as well as Nelson Mandela Day. Besides interacting with students and lecturers from other universities, networking with managers from various forestry companies in the Western Cape was a tremendous opportunity.

CCSO membership is open to all students in the Faculty of Science and Agriculture who are working on forestry-related projects.

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Sweden will soon become a second home to third year UKZN students, Ms Joanne Korte and Mr Praneal Singh.

Korte and Singh have been selected to participate in the International Exchange programme in Sweden for five months. They departed for the Karolinska Institute on August 20.

The Karolinska Institute was founded in 1810 and is the third largest university in Sweden. It also has an excellent reputation as one of Europe’s largest medical universities.

The students applied in May and were selected depending on their academic results and general attendance ratings to determine whether they would be able to cope with the academic workload in Sweden. ‘This is [a] great opportunity for us to not only experience life in Sweden but to be exposed to the high-scale technology used in their medical laboratories specifically for Optometry,’ they said.   

For Singh this will be his first time in Europe. ‘I am happy to be experiencing this with my friend Joanne because she has toured Europe and so I won’t feel completely lost,’ he said.

The students are also excited about experiencing Sweden’s super convenient transport system. ‘Our lecturers have told us about how super efficient, safe and fast their (Sweden’s) transport system is...we are very excited.’

In order to be accepted as an exchange student at the Karolinska Institute, applicants must be enrolled at a university that has a written exchange agreement with the Institute for the specific study programme of interest. Exchange students should be nominated by their home institution, although, the final decision on admission is made by the Karolinska email :



Basic skills to enhance communication between healthcare workers and patients and their families was the theme of an interesting workshop hosted by UKZN’s Department of Rural Health.

The workshop was led by internationally-renowned paediatric dermatologist from the Doris Duke Medical Centre at Duke University in the United States, Dr Neil Prose and Director of the Health Communication Project, Professor Claire Penn from the University of the Witwatersrand. Attended by clinicians and healthcare workers in KwaZulu-Natal, the workshop highlighted the many complex language, cultural and socio-political challenges facing health care.

Prose noted that being patient-centred means that the patient’s concerns take precedence. ‘When patients feel heard they become energised, helpful in their care and work hard to offer us additional information,’ he said. He advocated that doctors make eye contact, listen attentively, use open-ended questions and ask permission before giving advice.

Up until 1957, the former University of Natal’s Medical School included Anthropology and Sociology modules in the first-year curriculum to enable doctors to understand the complexities a patient faces on a daily basis. This fostered communication with patients in an intercultural setting.

Penn noted that although South Africa has 11 official languages, around 85 different languages are spoken in the country. Language diversity combined with historical and socio-political factors make communication difficult. Many doctors practising in South Africa are also from beyond the country’s borders and cannot speak indigenous languages.

Penn said that at Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, only 22 of 1 118 patients spoke either English or Afrikaans as their first language. Only four out of the 80 doctors at the hospital could speak more than two indigenous languages. It was also established that 40 percent of the nursing staff was reluctant to assist with interpretation for the doctors. Most mediators are senior female nursing staff that are expected to perform several other functions in the hospital and are often untrained mediators. Issues of lack of trust and confidentiality are challenges faced daily in the healthcare setting between the doctor and the mediator or interpreter.

Penn suggested that the role of the interpreter is one of linguist, cultural broker, patient advocate, co-therapist and team member. There needs to be mutual respect between the doctor and the mediator and acceptable fluidity in the conversation according to the topic, the patient’s stage of interaction and the patient’s illness. Doctors are encouraged to cede some power to the mediator and enjoy the interaction with the patient. She noted that in a Re
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UKZN’s Centre for Jazz and Popular Music’s Wednesday Concert on August 3 featured the talents of scholar, educator, and multi-instrumentalist, Dr Salim Washington, who was accompanied by UKZN students, graduates, and staff musicians.

Washington has a PhD from Harvard University, and is a professor at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College in New York. He is a leading scholar of African American and New Jazz studies. He is dedicated to serving and educating disadvantaged communities and visited South Africa in 2009 through the prestigious Fulbright Fellowship.

Washington is world-renowned as a master tenor saxophonist in the blues and gospel-inflected style of pop jazz. UKZN alumni, staff, students and visitors were delighted with his melodic performance.

Washington complimented the UKZN student band members who accompanied him. He described Mr Sakhile Simani as, "Africa’s future legend on the trumpet", and was impressed with Ms Nondumiso Xaba’s vocal performances in the different sets. Members of the band included: lecturer, Mr Neil Gonsalves on piano; alumnus, Mr Leon Scharnick on tenor saxophone; Mr Sbu Zondi on drums; and Mozambican musician, Mr Ildo Nandja on double bass.

The concert was separated into two sets and included stories of Washington’s life encounters, which kept the crowd entertained.  He described the late Busi Mhlongo’s live performances as, ‘a cultural experience and force that had healing powers’, and compared her to late American Legend, Sun Ra, whose work and philosophy greatly influenced  Washington’s music and life.

Numbers performed included Fried Bananas by Dexter Gordon; Sunrise by Gorge Duke; and Washington’s own compilation titled, To Know Yahweh.

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Whilst men were encouraged to support women leaders in the 21st century, women in the UKZN community were challenged to learn from women leaders who have graduated from the University and made a success of their careers locally and internationally.


These challenges were issued at a public lecture by UKZN alumnus, Ms Julie-May Ellingson, Head: Strategic Projects Unit and 2010 Programme, eThekwini Municipality on August 18. The lecture, to commemorate Women’s Month, was held on the Pietermaritzburg campus.


One of the biggest challenges facing women leaders is not the ‘men versus women’ phenomenon in the workplace but surprisingly, ‘women versus women’ said Ellingson. She called on women to empower one another. ‘You are tougher than you think you are… You do not have to be a “sheman” to deliver,’ she said.  


Turning to what is needed to head the development of megaprojects, especially as a woman. Ellingson’s overarching message was: ‘Believe in yourself’.


‘You have to step up to the plate. It is important to have a long-term vision, especially in our country and always lead by example and have integrity,’ Ellingson said. She stressed the importance of making decisions timeously but remaining flexible, adaptable and always sticking with your vision.


‘There is no “I” in team,’ said Ellingson. She cautioned that personal power is not positional power, adding that as a leader you must always be open to mentoring and being mentored. She urged women to stop stepping back and instead support other women. 


Ellingson said a good leader focuses on finding a solution and not a culprit, and encouraged female students to persevere. ‘Remember that the sun will rise tomorrow morning…celebrate achievements along the way,’ she said.

In a unique initiative by UKZN’s International Office on the Westville campus, local and international students had the opportunity to meet-and-greet over Durban’s famous Bunny Chow on August 12.


Swedish exchange student, Ms Anna Wall who is enrolled for a Marine Biology programme said while she has enjoyed her South African experience thus far, networking over the ‘delicious’ Bunny Chows was a highlight. Mr Erwin Sola who is enrolled for Honours in the same programme and who hails from Mozambique said staff and students have been very helpful. ‘I really like it here,’ he said.


Ms Rowena Maharaj, a third-year Business Science student, said the Bunny Chow initiative was an invaluable opportunity for intercultural interaction. Management exchange student, Mr Gilles Danse said he chose to study at UKZN for the cultural experience and has enjoyed the country. Public Administration student, Ms Nuria Cadete who hails from Angola said she has found that students at UKZN take their studies very seriously. ‘The Bunny Chow initiative was excellent and I hope it can be done more often,’ she said.


Justina Okeke, a doctoral student who shared her Bunny with a German student, said that it offered her an opportunity to interact with students from other backgrounds. At the event, a local student invited an international student to the rugby match between Australia and South Africa. The International Office is considering hosting the Bunny Chow initiative every semester. 

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Norwegian exchange student Mr Lars Thandolwethu Kintel describes his year at UKZN as “the best year of my life so far”.

‘I arrived in Durban and UKZN as an exchange student in Business in early August 2010 and left mid-June 2011.

‘I grew up as a victim of racism myself even though my skin colour is relatively white. I belong to the tiny minority people called the samis ( that inhabit most of northern Scandinavia and my mother tongue is spoken by approximately 700 (yes: seven hundred!) people in the two countries of Norway and Sweden. The prejudices and feeling of not being worth anything have shaped my life in such a way that identity and cultural awareness are important values for me. Maybe this made it easier for me to adapt to South Africa that has a history of racism in the system called Apartheid.

‘The very moment I arrived in South Africa I felt like at home. I felt and still feel I was made for this country! To my own excitement I realised I understood most of the cultural codes and had much the same mindset as most of my fellow students at UKZN. I wish I could explain a little further but lack of space limits.

‘Obviously it’s not that everything has been perfect: we  Norwegians take free Higher Education for granted, but if more of my fellow Norwegian students would have seen the desperation of some of the UKZN students struggling with anything else “unnecessary” than studying, they would have appreciated it more...

‘As an exchange student I enjoyed a special status at campus; we were only six of us my first semester and three living on campus the other semester, and I was the only one remaining for both semesters (actually I enjoyed UKZN and Durban that much that I extended my stay) so I made many friends and had a relatively problem free academic life. The International Office headed by Dr Prem Ramlachan was also of great assistance whenever I needed help, which often means in the registration period early in the semester. I did not come by International Office at all during the last semester, which means I enjoyed a semester with no urgent problems.

‘I did mostly undergrad modules the first semester and postgraduate modules the second semester so I believe I got quite a good impression
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