PhD student in biology, Ms Prabashni Lekha, received the 2011 Best Student Award from the Council for Scientific Research (CSIR) Natural Resources and the Environment Unit (NRE). 

This is an annual award from NRE for excellent research work/results by a student.  Minimum standards for this award are:

·       Evidence of above-average knowledge of the subject matter of the research work

·       Evidence of a track record of high quality presentation of research at conferences or publication in peer-reviewed conference proceedings or in journals, or appropriate academic recommendations or achievements

·       An excellent grasp of research processes and methodologies

·       Excellent behavioural attributes, such as developing and maintaining good personal and professional relationships, making an active contribution as a team member, and generally demonstrating the CSIR's values. 

Lekha received the Wirsam prize for the best oral presentation in the Life Sciences category at the 46th Microscopy Society of Southern Africa Conference held in Botswana in 2008, for her presentation on the “ of Xylan in Eucalyptus dissolving pulp fibres using enzyme-gold labeling and TEM.”

In 2009 she received the award for the Best Student Poster Presentation at the 47th conference of the Microscopy Society held in Durban for her work on “Drying Regime Effects on Enzyme Gold Localisation of Xylan in Eucalyptus Dissolving Pulp Fibres.”

Prabashni's supervisors are Professor Pat Berjak, Professor Norman Pammenter and Dr Tammy Bush. The project is part of the ever-strengthening collaboration between CSIR and the University of KwaZulu Natal.

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Academics in the College of Law and Management Studies continue to use their expertise to contribute and play a significant role in South African society.

Evidence of this was the re-appointment by President Zuma of Professor Bonke Dumisa of the Faculty of Management Studies and Professor Tanya Woker of the Faculty of Law to the National Consumer Tribunal. Both academics are Advocates of the High Court of South Africa.

Commenting on his re-appointment, Dumisa said: ‘It is very encouraging to operate within the national government structures, where the efforts of suitably qualified people are appreciated, and effectively used in the best interests of the country. I am looking forward to serving South Africa to the best of my ability in making sure there is justice in the credit industry and in consumer protection.’

Woker was also extremely honoured to be re-appointed. ‘The Consumer Protection Act recently came into operation and the Tribunal is expecting to deal with matters in terms of that Act in the near future.  The work of the Tribunal has until now been to deal with matters under the National Credit Act and now our work is to be significantly expanded.

‘This will be an exciting time for consumer protection as we will be called upon to deal with many different and varied matters,’ said Woker, adding that she was looking forward to making a contribution to the development of a jurisprudence dealing with consumer protection in South Africa.

The Tribunal is an independent adjudicative entity, deriving its mandate from the National Credit Act (NCA). A decision by the Tribunal has the same status as one made by the High Court of South Africa. The services of the Tribunal can be used by the National Credit Regulator, consumers, credit providers, debt counsellors and credit bureaus.

Both academics have been members of the Consumer Affairs Committee since 2000 and were first appointed to the National Consumer Tribunal in 2006.

The participation of academics in various boards is commended in the College of Law and Management Studies as it benefits the students when academics combine their wealth of practical knowledge with theory in formulating their lectures.

Other Law and Management academics have served on international and national professional boards such as the South African Human Rights Commission; the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration; the South African Law Reform Commission; the Presidency of the Commonwealth Legal Education Association; the Competition Tribunal of South Africa, and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

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The Uses and Abuses of Forensics Science in South Africa were examined during a public lecture delivered by internationally renowned forensic scientist, Dr David Klatzow, at UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.

Klatzow, who has more than 20 years’ experience as a practising forensic scientist in South Africa, said: ‘Forensic laboratories must be independent of the government if criminal cases are to be solved objectively. Otherwise we are in serious trouble as a country.’

A firm believer of evidence based on empirical facts, Klatzow is renowned for his work in headline criminal cases, including the Helderberg disaster.

Klatzow says in most instances the police system relies on confession evidence under juries and not forensic science. He noted that in cases such as the controversial Brett Kebble murder ‘political interference usually messes up criminal convictions.

‘It’s not all of them, but we have a police force with a significant number of members who do not understand integrity… In science you rely on the facts. The case is solved through untampered evidence found at the scene.’

He explained that this was not a uniquely South African trend but we do need to do it better. ‘

Klatzow recommends that forensic science be ‘removed from politics.’ He also recommends that a forensic science course be developed at universities and that forensic scientists and pathologists should not be employed by the State. In this way, forensic scientists and pathologists would invest in the truth with no loyalties to the prosecution team or the State.

Klatzow’s work encompasses insurance work, ballistics and chemistry as well as any case that requires expert scientific evidence in a court of law. He currently runs a full-time forensic practice in Cape Town.
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The Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (ccrri) has successfully produced an online database model – the first of its kind at UKZN – which will benefit cross disciplinary researchers with a particular focus on race and identity in the social sciences.

The new model, generously funded by the Maurice Webb Trust, has been named the Race and Identity Resource Collection.  The collection aims to bring together UKZN published material and existing theses that deal directly with race and identity. It also offers the possibilities of longitudinal and comparative studies on how, why and in which ways race is utilised within academic research. 

At present the trial database holds an interdisciplinary collection of published research (including completed theses) ranging from 2003 to 2010, and is now available from the ccrri Zotero library which can be accessed by following this link:

This online collection is fully searchable for keywords and can be sorted by author, title or other field of choice for ease of use.  The database drew from records in the UKZN Research Reports, IRMA, and the online Research Space. 

‘We aim to extend this database in the future, both historically to include records further back in time as well as broadening the range of data such as including publications that deal with intersections between race and gender for example, and race and sexuality,’ said Ms Kira Erwin, a postdoctoral candidate at ccrri.

Erwin and the ccrri team are excited about the project and look forward to multidisciplinary interaction to be facilitated by this new resource.

The Centre encourages its use by a wide range of scholars, and would appreciate any constructive feedback.  The University community is also encouraged to send details of any UKZN published material that falls under the theme of Race and Identity and has not been included in the collection, to Niall McNulty (author email :



A UKZN lecturer addressed Dies Academicus 2011 hosted by a Lutheran theological college in Germany, Uberursel Lutherische Theologische Hochschule, to examine the role of Lutheran missionaries in South Africa during apartheid.

Mr Radikobo Ntsimane of the School of Religion and Theology drew from his doctoral dissertation to show the role played by Lutheran missionaries in perpetuating racial discrimination and cultural domination in health care provision.

Ntsimane was among a gathering of theological students and their lecturers, local pastors and former missionaries who met with guests from the United States, Belgium and South Africans at the event in Uberursel.

Presentations included the relationship among the racially divided Lutheran churches during the apartheid era and the lack of opposition to apartheid.

Ntsimane argued that the missionaries embraced biomedicine uncritically and took a prejudiced position in relation to traditional health systems.   That way the missionaries did not use the opportunity to learn from the indigenous people until the mission hospitals were nationalised in the 1970s.

In conclusion the presentation showed that promoting biomedicine against traditional health systems the missionaries allowed the apartheid government to subsidise and later nationalise their hospitals.   The missions’ churches’ slowed response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic could be explained by their easy abdication of health provision responsibilities when the hospitals were taken over by the government.  
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Aimed at contributing towards the realisation of a UKZN goal to increase the number of its permanent academics with doctoral degrees to 70 percent by 2016, a certification ceremony was held to honour 14 staff members graduating from the 2011 UKZN/SANTRUST Pre-Doctoral Programme.

The Programme, divided into six modules, is a year-long intensive course designed to equip doctoral candidates with a range of skills to enable them to accelerate the completion of their PhDs.

Candidates are required to give feedback on each of the modules while facilitators submit comprehensive evaluation reports for each of the modules taught. Such programmes are important as staff members with doctoral degrees increase their capacity to supervise both masters’ and doctoral students.

In his welcome address, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Professor Nelson Ijumba thanked the candidates who took up the initiative to register for the programme. He emphasised that such initiatives were critical to bridge the gap of increasing the number of staff with PhDs from around 40 percent to the University goal of 70 percent by 2016.

However, he reminded the candidates that completing the programme was just the beginning and meant candidates ‘have tested the water and they are happy with the temperature’.

Keynote speaker Professor Renuka Vithal, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, shared insights gained from having founded and participated in - together with Professor Michael Samuel - the Seminar Based Cohort Supervision Programme under the Faculty of Education.  She advised them: ‘It’s not the smart ones that finish but those who want it enough,’ adding that it was an ‘enjoyable but painful journey.

Vithal’s message was around four lessons which she shared with the candidates. The first was that ‘you can’t force anyone to learn’ as this was a democratic process. She encouraged the students to take ownership of their own studies, but also know when to stop and listen. ‘Decide what advice you will and will not take,’ she said, while also encouraging candidates to position themselves as learners as there was nothing as humbling as being a learner.

The second lesson revolved around the importance of finding programmes that would support students in the journey of learning. She encouraged them to read, observe scholars in their field and put effort in their work to reach that turning point where a student found they knew more than their supervisor.

Vithal’s third lesson involved the notion of Ubuntu and peer support among doctoral candidates. She encouraged students not to pursue only their own studies but to support each other and give back to the group.

The final lesson was about the role of serendipity in the doctoral study journey with the advice to students to make a pact with themselves. ‘Attend any and all kinds of things related to your study as it might be the one that unlocks your study,’ she said.

The School of Science, Mathematics and Technology (Science Discipline) at the Faculty of Education hosted its undergraduate Research and Service-Learning symposium where students displayed great potential for research excellence and active community engagement.

Students conducted seven-week research projects that were community specific for their final projects. These research initiatives took place among the KwaNdengezi, Bester, Chatsworth and Phoenix communities in Durban.

They further presented their findings and the impact of their initiatives to external examiners, lecturers and fellow students, highlighting their research objectives, theories, methodologies and research techniques. The research they conducted was aimed at benefiting the research participants as part of critical community engagement within the process of research creation for students.

Education Faculty lecturer Dr Angela James noted; ‘The symposium recognised and celebrated the individual capacities and talents for Research and Service-learning in students. It also aimed to inspire students to engage in research as academics, and in their respective classrooms and beyond.’

Mr Sithebe Sithole’s project explored organic farming by KwaNdengezi gardeners at the Ethembeni Crisis Centre. He addressed the financial difficulties of his research group and their need to expand gardening skills and produce better crops for their families with less costs.

Sithole found that gardeners used fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides to protect crops lacking knowledge and understanding of more environment friendly and sustainable agricultural methods.

‘Gardeners use Blue Death to control insects. I suggested they use biological control methods and taught them how to do this,’ he said.

Ms Fatima Yusuf focused on a crèche at the Ethembeni Crisis Centre where she explored and developed fine and gross motor skills of 10 pre-school children. Her research was motivated by the fact that more than 20 million children in developing countries do not grow to their physical and mental potential, according to the World Health Organisation.

Yusuf’s research found that the 10 children aged between four and five years developed their gross and fine motor skills in the seven weeks she worked with them. ‘A particular finding was that children learn more fine motor skills when teachers use practical examples in teaching shapes and alphabets,’ she said.

Her observation was that teachers did not have a formal structure for developing children’s motor skills and that a more interdisciplinary method of teaching should be explored in training children. ‘This method would encourage higher levels of skills development,’ she said.

Mr Sthembiswo Mvelase explored and developed children’s understanding and practice of waste management and recycling at the same creche. He found there were not enough resource
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Journeying Home, a bold original South African theatre offering by writer and Lecturer Verne Rowin Munsamy of UKZN’s Drama and Performance Studies Department, wowed the crowds who flocked to see it on the Howard College campus.


The play, well written and performed with energy and panache, ran from 16-27 November at the Square Space Theatre.


The play is an emotional and heartfelt diary-like theatrical encounter with six South Africans who are ‘journeying home’ via different routes – geographical but also emotional and spiritual.


What makes Journeying Home a tragicomedy of note for South African audiences lie not only in the script but the encounters and situations endured by the characters in the play.


Said Munsamy: ‘To quote the play “…when you travel and arrive somewhere, your soul takes a while to catch up to you. That has never been the case for me, I have travelled to many beautiful places, but I think that my soul remained in this place. I’ve now returned to it”.’


The production’s success was the result of polished acting and a dedicated stage crew comprising Drama and Performance Studies Department students.

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“Why are our Students Dropping out? Emerging Insights from UKZN Cohort Data” was the title of a stimulating and thought-provoking seminar presented by the University Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) on the Westville campus.

The seminar was framed around two independent institutional research studies conducted by teams of UKZN academics from two faculties who offered insights into the 2010 graduating undergraduate student cohort, traced back to their first year of enrolment in their respective Bachelor’s degrees.

Professor Delia North, Head of the School of Statistics and Actuarial Science, and colleagues, Professor Michael Murray and Professor Temesgen Zewotir, presented eye-opening data concerning student drop-out rates, including insight into some of South Africa’s most worrying learning areas - maths and science.

The other research team from the Faculty of Education comprised the Acting Dean and lead researcher Professor Labby Ramrathan, Dr Sadhana Manik, Dr Daisy Pillay and Ms Busi Goba.

Research by the teams has involved various factors which cause students to be academically excluded, and other factors which result in voluntary drop-outs.

The statistics presented probe further questions on what academic and support staff can do to improve graduate throughput, research productivity and ensure that the transition from high school to university is smooth for first year students at UKZN.

The seminar came at an appropriate time in the light of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande recently questioning access and drop-out rates at institutions of higher learning and proposing the naming and shaming of institutions with high drop-out rates.

‘Recognition of the role that Institutions of Higher Learning (HEIs) play in the educational, social, economic and cultural development of society, has lead to Governments around the world investing in Higher Education Institutions. The Department of Education (DOE) funds HEIs in South Africa based on two key outputs – student throughput and research productivity,’ said North. ‘The authors attempt to identify factors that lead to the successful progression to higher level modules over the mentioned period as this will allow UKZN to strategise in order to improve on student throughput rates,’ she said.

Ramrathan said the study would be of national benefit and contribute to the discourses on national strategies to address dropout and student exclusions in order to achieve its transformational agenda. 

‘Further, this study will be of institutional benefit as it will contribute to institutional planning, policies and strategies for addressing student dropout and exclusions.  Finally, the study will contribute to a body of knowledge on Higher Education student retention,’ he added.

In  a pending paper titled: “Analyses of the Dampening and Progression Rate of Students,” North, Murray and Zewotir argue that: ‘The proportion of students who discontinue their studies on account of academic dismissal or voluntary dropout, which is referred to as an attrition rate, is substantial and it remains a major problem.’

‘The study is in its second year and a product
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Close to 140 delegates at a two-day Update Symposium organised by the Division of Medicine at UKZN's Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine were briefed on current issues in the field through a variety of informative presentations.

Originally a one-day event intended for family practitioners, the Update has evolved to include topics for both specialist physicians and family practitioners and is held over two days. It disseminates up-to-date information about current issues in the field of health, updates on diseases and their management, and legal issues regarding practitioners which benefit practitioners and specialists.

Head of the Division of Medicine, Professor Richard Hift, noted that the topics discussed were specifically chosen because of their relevance and the interest around them among specialists and family practitioners.

‘The Update brings together different specialists in medicine and provides opportunities for dialogue between doctors and stimulates their interests in diverse areas such as rheumatoid arthritis, medical and health policies, chronic diseases and other issues,’ said Hift.

A presentation by Professor Sylvester Chima on bioethics, medical law and research ethics informed practitioners about their legal responsibility and the rights of patients for informed consent. Chima stated that there are a total of five stages that practitioners need to go through with the patient in order to have total consent.

‘If you do not go through all five steps, your patients consent cannot be rendered legal, and you may be liable for malpractice. Informed consent for any medical procedure can be withdrawn at anytime, even if it results in death of the patient,’ said Chima.

Pfizer’s representative, Mr Themba Mnguni , told delegates about their new drugs offered to both private and State institutions, and how State institutions could purchase the same products at discounted rates. ‘The rates are dependent on the type of drug, but most important is that practitioners must know of, and pass the information along to others so that they can make use of medication at lower prices.’

The Update included presentations by experts on chronic pancreatitis; obstructive sleep apnoea; proximal weaknesses; nephrology referrals; Crohn’s disease; cardiology; and acute liver failure.

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