Ingenuity and innovation were the order of the day when final-year Mechanical Engineering students displayed their design projects at an Open Day on October 28 at UKZN’s Howard College campus.

The projects – the final result of a year of intense work – are a test of the students’ ability to survive as mechanical engineers and form the pinnacle of their tertiary achievements.

Students produced a high standard of work that showcased their ability to design new products and services in response to the needs of society. In particular, many of the projects were a response to challenges posed by climate change and sustainable energy.  

Adding to the excitement of the day, a panel of external experts in the field of mechanical engineering, judged the student projects on their design ingenuity and application. Students worked in groups of three or four for a nine-month period during which time they were evaluated in terms of the outcomes required by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). The winners were selected at the Open Day.

Winners of the overall top-end project were: Mr Jason Buhrmann, Ms Shereka Hariram and Mr Blaik Whitehouse designed a prototype Heliostat. A Heliostat is a movable sun reflector that concentrates the light from the sun onto a stationary target throughout the course of the day and year.

Heliostats form a critical component of central-receiver solar-power plants. They function by using a field of heliostats to focus sunlight onto a single point, usually located at the top of a tower. This concentrated light reaches temperatures of over 1000 degrees Celsius and is used in a Breyton or Rankin cycle to produce electricity.

Hariram said, ‘Central receiver power plants represent an important way of producing electricity, as solar energy will form one of the bases of renewable energy resources in the future of power generation.’ Hariram said the Heliostat prototype would be ideal for use in rural areas of South Africa. Jason Buhrmann said, ‘Heliostat research in South Africa is relatively new, with research being lead by Thomas Roos of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), along with new programs at UKZN and Stellenbosch University.’

The plight of vulnerable and marginalised children in South Africa with developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders  was discussed when the Dean of UKZN’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack, and delegates from Autism Speaks recently met with South Africa’s First Lady, Tobeka Madiba Zuma.

The aim of the meeting was to encourage the First Lady to champion this cause as it is in line with the vision A Better World for All advocated through her organisation, the Tobeka Madiba Zuma Foundation. The Foundation has a particular focus on vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Essack represented the Developmental Disabilities Research Collaborative (DDRC), an organisation established in 2010 at UKZN. It is composed of a multidisciplinary group of academics, researchers, service providers, non-governmental organisations and national and provincial government representatives from the health, education and social development sectors.

The DDRC provides an ideal platform to comprehensively address the needs of an extremely vulnerable sector of the South African community - children with developmental disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).

Last year, the DDRC together with Autism Speaks also hosted an international conference on ASDs. At the conference, the South African Chapter of the Global Autism Public Health Initiative (GAPHI) was launched. The main focus of GAPHI is community awareness and empowerment, research, education and training. In order to achieve this goal, collaborative efforts are required from all government departments, non-profit organisations, tertiary institutions, parent bodies and advocacy and professional associations involved with children with developmental disabilities in South Africa.

Zuma expressed an interest in the initiative and in the position paper of the DDRC recognising that concerted efforts were required by all parties to ensure that this global challenge was overcome. 


Clinicians, registrars, allied health sciences students and health researchers often experience challenges writing up their first clinical protocol.

With this in mind, UKZN academics, Dr Colleen Aldous and Ms Tonya Esterhuizen and a University of Pretoria colleague, Professor Paul Rheeder, recently published a book titled: Writing your First Clinical Research Protocol.

Published by Juta, the book provides exercises, notes and examples to assist students conducting clinical research for the first time.

The book provides students with guidelines on refining the concept, designing the study and ultimately producing a complete protocol. The information contained can be adapted to various settings, is interactive and provides an easy to understand dichotomous key for statistical test selection algorithms, intended to be used to indicate simple associations or bivariate analyses.

Useful topics include conducting a literature review, selecting an appropriate study design, ethics approval, data analysis, budgeting and setting timelines, and reporting findings.

The information could also be helpful in other disciplines such as the basic sciences, allied health sciences and those pursuing diplomas through universities of technologies.

Aldous, a research co-ordinator at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, said, ‘This book is the culmination of a vision I had to develop a simple guideline for clinical protocol writing that would assist registrars in the faculty specifically.’

The Health Sciences Professions Council policy includes a compulsory requirement of a research component involving medical specialising for all registrars across all disciplines.  Hence, all registrars need to write the College of Medicine (CMSA) Examinations and submit evidence of having carried out research. The research component is the centre of the Masters of Medicine (MMED) degree.

A team from UKZN’s Traditional Medicine Laboratory were prize-winners at the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Expo held at Mahikeng in the North West Province.


Team UKZN exhibited research work on the use of traditional medicines in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes, and cancer. They received a prize for their stall which was ranked in the top 10 at the expo.


The expo opened with a keynote address delivered by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi Pandor, who said she had been impressed by the range and quality of the indigenous products on display.


‘These products are high quality and reveal the potential of our country to become a major producer in the global indigenous trade. It’s appropriate that we should seek to make this knowledge part of our education system, and hence the focus this year is on indigenous knowledge and education,’ said Pandor.


The focus is on improving schools management, monitoring and evaluating systems and supporting and developing a high quality teaching profession that would utilise IKS.


‘Interfacing our indigenous philosophies and methodologies with those of mainstream sciences will contribute to the development of a unique set of graduates, who will be committed to developing the social, environmental, cultural and economic health of communities,’ she said.


‘For most South Africans, indigenous knowledge is not something elusive or mysterious. Rather, it is what local communities know and do, and what local communities have known and done for generations,’ she stated.


Politics in the United States is today more polarised than ever before because of the election of Barack Obama – an event which surprised most Americans as they had not expected a black president in the White House so soon.


This is according to Professor Kerry Haynie, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Duke University in the United States, who was addressing UKZN’s Centre for African Literature Studies (CALS).


Haynie teaches American politics and the specialised areas of African-American politics, legislative processes, state-level politics, and the American federal system. He has a long standing relationship with UKZN, having presented talks at the former University of Natal in the 1990s.


His talk was titled: “New Race Politics in the US: Is Obama just the beginning?”  The presentation probed changing demographics in the United States and the subsequent political power dynamics. It also highlighted new state laws affecting the voting rights of black and brown people.


 Most importantly, Haynie said: ‘No, Obama is not the beginning of new race politics in America.’


He said Obama’s political style, much like that of other black politicians in the United States, excluded race seemingly to find favour with all populations. Obama was trying to secure White votes in America by not projecting an image to the white population of ‘the Black president’, especially since black and brown people were a growing minority. Furthermore, Obama’s acceptance speech had never directly mentioned race or the racial significance of his presidential title.


However, many African-Americans were disappointed by this as ‘they see it as Obama’s failure to acknowledge those who put him in the Presidency. If you cannot even talk about the racial inequalities in America, how can you address those issues?’


UKZN students of the Opera Studio and Choral Academy (OSCA) performed their first full opera production, Gianni Schicchi, on the Howard College campus wowing audiences with exceptional stage presence and vocals.


Gianni Schicchi is a famous Italian opera composed in 1918 by Giacomo Puccini. The opera opens with the mourning of the passing of rich Uncle Buoso. Only his family knows of his death and is gathered around his bed where he lays lifeless. They pretend to weep but very soon real tears fall as they read Buoso’s will.


It is a comic production where greed is the order of the day and Buoso’s bourgeois family contests his will and asks shrewd commoner, Gianni Schicchi, to impersonate Buoso and change the will for the notary.


In-between the family’s greed and Schicchi’s cunningness, a romantic story between Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, and Buoso’s nephew, young Rinuccio unveils. Their love is frowned upon and loves’ innocence is fought for in the mist of the status quo. 


The impeccable drama performance of the students was largely thanks to renowned Director, Mr Marcus Desando, who directs at the State Theatre and owns The Black Tie Ensemble production Company.


OSCA’s voice lecturer and conductor for Gianni Schicchi, Mr Lionel Mkhwanazi, said he knew students needed guidance from a specialised director with comic opera experience. ‘Desando was perfect for the position seeing that he frequently worked with Tshwane University students and has directed internationally.


‘I am very proud of the students’ dedication to learn the complex musical style of Verismo in this opera, whilst preparing for their Buggy and author email :



Dean of UKZN’s Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack, has been re-elected as Chair of the South African Committee of Health Sciences Deans (SACOHSD).

The committee, which works closely with the National Department of Health and Higher Education, unanimously elected Essack for a further two-year term.

SACOHSD consists of Health Sciences Deans from universities and universities of technology in South Africa. These institutions offer health sciences programmes which require registration of graduates with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA), Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), the South African Nursing Council (SANC), the Dental Technicians' Council (DTC) and the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC).

The purpose of the committee is to facilitate the optimisation of education and training of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Health Sciences in order to meet the healthcare and research goals of the country.

Since its inception in 2008, the committee is recognised as a co-aligned community of practice by Higher Education South Africa. It has also hosted a conference, opened by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, which highlighted the need for rehabilitation in the public health sector. The conference also focused on optimising student training and the rehabilitation service nationally.

Another success of the committee was to motivate for the expansion of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Clinical Training Grant to include Nursing, Biomedical Technology, Clinical Technology, Emergency Medical Care and Radiography.

At a South African Medical and Dental Practitioners gala dinner held this year, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, said the grant was allocated to Deans of Faculties of Health Sciences based on detailed plans and audited reports.

ICampbell Collections eNyuvesi yakwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) ibibambe usuku olubizwa ngeSpecial Collections Open Day, lapho umphakathi uthakasele amagugu abo amane omlando achaza kabanzi umlando wegugu ngalinye.


Ngaphansi kweSpecial Collections e-UKZN kukhona i-Alan Paton Centre & Struggle Archives, iGandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre, iCentre for African Literary Studies neCampbell Collections. ISpecial Collections ibalulekile ngoba igcina umbhalo ongatholakali kalula onomlando ongasetshenziswa abacwaningi ukubheka ngezikhathi ezidlule.


Kulolusuku abantu abebevela kwizikhungo ezahlukahlukene babheke imvelaphi yabo kwathi abacwaningi bafumana ulwazi lokuthi basebenzisane kanjani nalesi sikhungo.


Kuzikhulumi bekubalwa kubo uNkk Yvonne Winters weCampbell Collections, Mnu Karunanda Chetty ovela eGandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre, Nkk Christine Stilwell, obechaza ngeCentre for African Literary Studies, kanye noNkk Jewel Koopman, ochaze kabanzi nge Alan Paton Centre & Struggle Archives (APC).  


UDkt Vukile Khumalo, ofundisa ngezomlando e-UKZN, oseke wasebenzisa indawo iCampell Collections efundisa ngomlando nezamaphephandaba kelezizifundo, ukhulume ngomlando kaNdongeni Zulu.


I“The Ride”, umdlalo ulandela uBarry Armitage noJoe Dawson bezama ukuthola umlando kaDick King esuka eThekwini eya eGrahamstown ngehhashi ngo1842. Bebheka uNdongeni Zulu owayehamba noKing okunguyena owakhuluma ngomlando kaKing kuqala. UKhumalo ubebheka abantu abalandela lomlando bethulile. Waveza nezindlela ezahlukene uNdongeni Zulu abebhekwa ngazo ngabacwaningi abahlukene. Uthe lokhu kuveza ukuthi isikhathi singaba nomthelela ongakanani ekubhekeni umuntu owenza umlando.


Umfundisi odumile nosemkantshubomvu, uSolwazi John Aitchison ukhulume ngokubaluleka kokufundisa abantu ngomlando ngoba sisesikhathini lapho kunezinkomba ezingenza abantu bakhohlwe izinto esezenzekile emlandweni email :



The College of Health Sciences recently hosted the 4th Pfizer-University of KwaZulu-Natal Young Health Scientists Research Symposium which provides a platform for young health scientists at undergraduate and honours level to present their research in a national competition.

Winners are selected by a team of national adjudicators in the categories of community-based, clinical and laboratory-based research. This year, the University of Free State (UFS) scooped first prize in two of the categories.

Mr Hendrik Kruger, a medical student at the UFS, won the clinical category for his study on Injury Patterns of Occupants Surviving Motor Vehicle Accidents in the Free State.

Kruger said there were 14 057 deaths in South Africa in 2008 as a result of motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) while in the same year, the Free State province recorded 886 deaths due to MVAs. The study included 282 patients treated at the Pelonomi Hospital’s Trauma Unit during the study period of about 72 days. These patients, aged between 21 and 50, comprised 110 drivers, 141 front seat passengers (FSPs) and 31 rear-seated occupants.

The study found that drivers were injured more severely than FSPs with injuries recorded in the thorax, abdomen and spinal cord. FSPs sustained injuries in the limbs and head region.

 The study, a first of its kind in South Africa, emphasised the need for further studies of the same nature to be conducted nationally. Kruger’s advice to vehicle passengers was to ‘sit in the middle at the rear of the vehicle. This is the safest place to be as the majority of these passengers survive an MVA with few or no injuries’.

Scooping the prize in the community-based category was UFS student in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Ms Anke Malan. Her study: “Knowledge, Practices and Perceptions of Undergraduate Students at the University of Free State regarding the known Risk Factors of Osteoporosis,” found that only 57 percent of the 1222 students who participated had a basic knowledge of osteoporosis and of the 57 percent, 15.9 percent thought it was a heart or brain disease.

The study also f
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UKZN has renewed its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (the University of Amsterdam) which is designed to encourage direct contact and co-operation between the two institutions.


South Africa is the first country in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA) grouping with which Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has built and nurtured a relationship.


The partnership is an enabling conduit for possible partnerships in the European Union's Erasmus Mundus programme which UKZN has been a beneficiary with Eurpean partner institutions.


The signing of the MOU was also part of UKZN’s efforts to promote internationalisation and forge strategic partnerships at continental and global levels. 


The MOU specifies a range of forms of co-operation which will be pursued over five years for the benefit of both institutions including staff and students for study and research; study abroad programmes; student exchange programmes; visits by and interchange of staff for research, teaching and discussions; exchange of information such as exchange of library resources and research publications; and collaborative research activities.


The visiting delegation from Vrije Universiteit spent a week in South Africa. ‘This is one partnership we are really willing to deepen and strengthen,’ said Mr Len Mzimela, Director of University Relations and Marketing Support at UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division.


‘A multidisciplinary approach stands to benefit a range of students and academics, and subsequently the wider global community,’ said Professor Anton Hemerijck who is Vice-Rector: Internationalisation for Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Life sciences, the social sciences, health economics and HIV research are some of the core disciplines the two institutions are partners in.


The merits - and demerits - of cellphones, Twitter and Facebook were in the spotlight at a recent Democracy Forum on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

Four Masters students from different disciplines made presentations and engaged with the audience answering questions on the issue under the topic: “Are youth using Cellphones, Twitter, Facebook etc to build democracy, equality and social justice, or are social networks a new “opium of the people” distracting youth from bigger social concerns?

The Democracy Forum was sponsored by the Pietermaritzburg branch of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and organised by the Democracy, Governance and Human Rights Programme of the Department of Student Leadership Development.

All the speakers received gift vouchers from SAIIA as a token of appreciation for their research and contributions that stimulated a lively debate.

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Being born a woman or a man in any society is more than a simple biological fact… it is imbedded with social implications.

This was among the issues discussed at a recent UKZN seminar presented by visiting academic, Dr Petra Jonvallen, who was hosted by the Discipline of Criminal Studies and Criminology on the Howard College campus.

Jonvallen is an Assistant Professor in Gender and Technology at Lulea University of Technology in Sweden.

In a presentation titled: “Constructions of the Body, Sex and Gender,” Jonvallen highlighted the connection between biological elements and social trends which have contributed specifically in the construction of female sexuality, gender and anatomy.

Students were introduced to the discussion on the homogenous “One-Sex Model” which is derived from a nexus of ideas that the female genitalia is an interior version of male genitalia. This was the conclusion about the female anatomy during the Renaissance era and consequently revised by medical practitioners during the 18th Century when Dr Thomas Lacquer introduced the “Two-Sex Model.”

Women’s sexual pleasure was seen as taboo, with descriptions of the anatomy of women continuing to focus on the reproductive system until the 21st Century.

As a medical sociologist, Jonvallen’s work has dealt with the perceptions of medical practitioners on male and female anatomy. Her recent research is about how bodies are constructed in biomedicine today and focused on the way medical practitioners differentiate males and females using the body’s fat mass. Through this research, staff and students were shown that biased cultural and societal norms also affected the medical environment.

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UKZN’s Alumni Relations Office launched the Medicine Student Chapter to a group of excited third-year medical students at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine (NRMSM).

Student Chapters are in line with a University-wide campaign to encourage students to play an active role in their student/alumni bodies.

Addressed by a fellow alumnus and a member of the University’s Convocation Executive, Dr Thavan Padayachi, the students were excited by the opportunities of proposed further interaction with the private practice sector. Padayachi told students they should call upon alumni and colleagues within the private sector to communicate on opportunities and challenges faced in this environment.

Deputy Dean of the NRMSM, Professor Fanie Botha, said: ‘Student and Alumni associations are extremely important in that they encourage students from a particular discipline to build networks and remain in touch even after graduation.

‘Student Chapters will provide our students with the opportunity to interact with staff, fellow classmates and alumni of this Medical School on a regular basis through social gatherings. Also, we know that Medical School students, upon graduation, go from having no money or very little money to suddenly earning a decent salary as interns,’ said Botha.

‘How prepared are you to manage your new income? Most first-year interns find themselves in very compromising and difficult situations due to managing their funds incorrectly. Financial advisors can provide you with the necessary financial management skills. This is just one of the many examples of how a Student Chapter can benefit one whilst as a student and an alumnus.

‘We, as the management of the Medical School, provide our full support to the UKZN Alumni Division and we fully endorse the launch of this chapter. We would like to encourage you to play an active role in your Chapter and please spread the message to the entire student body of the Medical School,’ said Botha.

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