All undergraduate engineering qualifications offered by the new School of Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal are now fully accredited by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

An interim accreditation visit to the current School of Mechanical Engineering was conducted by ECSA’s accreditation team in September. The committee’s report was considered by ECSA’s Engineering Programme Accreditation Committee in November and full accreditation was granted to UKZN’s BScEng (Mechanical Engineering) degree. 

This was the final qualification awaiting full accreditation from the Council and this means that all programmes offered by the new School of Engineering are fully accredited by the industry’s professional body. Maintaining accreditation will mean that ECSA will conduct further routine inspections and visits in the future, in order to ensure that standards at the University are in line with its professional requirements.

Professor Ed Boje, current Deputy Dean of Engineering, said that the accreditation is a vital quality assurance measure of the university’s engineering graduates. In order to register and practice as a professional engineer in South Africa, a graduate must have a qualification from an accredited institution. The ECSA accredited qualifications are recognised for professional registration in countries that have signed the Washington Accord (Canada, Chinese Taipei, Ireland, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, and United States of America).

Professor Rob Slotow, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science said the accreditation was representative of the large amount of work and dedication from the staff in Engineering and was an external recognition of the quality of work produced at UKZN. He further stated that this would provide a sound foundation for the future development and growth of the new School of Engineering.

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The Law Faculty hosted two seminars on the Pietermaritzburg campus with the aim of stimulating research under the auspices of the Centre for Criminal Justice (CCJ) as well as to encourage interdisciplinary participation between various faculties.

The CCJ is a research and community outreach centre affiliated to the Law Faculty.

A PhD student from the School of Political Science, Mr Timothy Obaje, opened the series in September with a research paper titled: “The Challenges and Benefits of Policy Networks: A Case Study of Labour Policy Implementation at the Centre for Criminal Justice.”

His study investigated the challenges and benefits of policy networks, focusing on the experience of the CCJ and its use of networks when implementing labour policy.

The second seminar featured a research paper by Ms Victoria Balogun, Law Lecturer and Research Co-ordinator in the Faculty and the CCJ, titled: “Mental Disability: Tackling Child-Sexual Abuse in Resource-Deficient Communities.”

The paper examined the plight of child-victims of sexual abuse and explored the need for adequate policy safeguarding the promotion and protection of such victims in resource–deficient communities.

As a research and community outreach centre advocating access to justice for disadvantaged communities, especially women and children, the CCJ understands that challenges faced by these groups can only be addressed through multidisciplinary approaches. Because of this, participation from other faculties is encouraged as more research seminars are planned for 2012.

It is paramount that the CCJ maintains its academic expectations and to fulfill this mandate the Centre encourages Masters and PhD students from other Faculties to conduct their research work at the Centre.

Besides the research seminars, the Faculty of Law and the Centre now offer a module known as the Access to Justice, which is an elective offered to fourth year law students.

According to Balogun, the module is designed to give the students both practical and theoretical experience. The first cohort of students gained invaluable experience when they visited the Ixopo Outreach Centre. Their experience included consultations with the clients with guidance by the CCJ Outreach Co-ordinators.

In its 21 years of existence the CCJ has established about 15 support centres located within police stations and government departments. These centres provide marginalised and vulnerable communities with easy access to justice.&nbs
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A second year UKZN Law student’s first research article has been published in a prestigious legal journal Tydskrif vir Hedendaagse Romeins-Hollandse Reg (THRHR) - rated as the second best in the country.

This is a highly unusual achievement for an undergraduate student. ‘Narrowing the scope for breach of promise actions,’ was the title of Ms Kimberly Sharp’s article co-authored by Professor of Law, Noel Zaal.

Their article was based on a legal case of Van Jaarsveld v Bridges where Harms DP, in expressing a unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal, concluded that the law on breach of promise actions has become out-dated. In consequence, there was a need to provide a reassessment and new guidance for lower courts. However, Harms DP preferred to do so ‘without reaching any definite conclusion.’ (para 3). In light of this somewhat enigmatic dictum the article provides an interpretation of how the law governing breach of promise actions has been modified by the judgment.

The article showed that the effect has been merely a step towards abolition, retaining breach of promise as still a valid cause of action but with a reduction in the scope for damages claims.

When Zaal was approached by Sharp with her concept he assumed she was a final year student. He admits he was very sceptical and gave her a lot of work to do but was highly impressed by her tremendous enthusiasm when she came back a week later with a comprehensive report. Zaal says in his 30 years in academia he has never dealt with a student of Sharp’s calibre.

UKZN commends academics who mentor students - as Zaal did with Sharp - as they play a pivotal role in the realisation of the University’s Strategic Goal number three which promotes pre-eminence in research.

For Zaal the mentoring process was not difficult because Sharp is passionate about research. ‘I think research work is very important for the legal profession as a whole - it keeps the profession progressing and it is a great process to be a part of. It is always interesting to research new areas of law as you never know when that knowledge will be useful. In my opinion, the broader one’s knowledge is, the better one can approach a legal problem,’ commented Sharp.

The Law Faculty co-hosted climate change and environmental law experts and activists at a Conference on Climate Change Law and Governance in the Global South on the Howard College campus on 3 and 4 December.

The Conference, which coincided with the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) negotiations in Durban, was hosted by the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), Warburton Attorneys Sustainability Law Specialists, the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) and the Faculty of Law. 

As part of the conference, a launch was held to celebrate four recent publications. The publications were formally toasted by the former President of Ireland, Ms Mary Robinson, who provided the opening keynote address while the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Dr Kumi Naidoo, enthralled the audience with his closing keynote address.

Robinson said she was pleased to see lawyers and academics getting engaged in issues of climate change. She added that Africa was suffering due to climate change and that these issues were relevant to lawyers.

She suggested indigenous people needed to be provided with a forum to explore the issues. Robinson was concerned that some lawyers were not giving enough attention to the issue of climate change and encouraged lawyers to take up these cases as pro bono work.

Publications launched at the conference included: Climate Change Liability - Transnational Law and Practice (Cambridge University Press), edited by Mr Richard Lord, Q.C. Brick Street Chambers, Silke Goldberg, Professor Lavanya Rajamani and Jutta Brunnée of the Centre for Policy Research. The book, which is about the coming together of lawyers and academics, is a collaborative effort with 18 chapters that will appeal to a wide audience. Some of the chapters are targeted at developing countries and there are chapters from every continent.

Other publications were: Behind the Success Stories in the Climate Compatible Development Policy Briefs Series (Climate & Development Knowledge Network), edited / authored by Sebastien Jodoin, Sarah Mason-Case, Mairi Dupar, Edward Cameron et alCompendium of Legal Best Practices in Sustainable Development Law & Policy on Climate Change (IDLO & CISDL), edited /authored by Sarah Mason-Case, Benoit Mayer & Liliana del Villar; and Legal Preparedness for REDD+ - Legal Studies, edited / authored by Sarah Mason-Case, Emelyne Cheney, Hung Phan, Liliana del Villar, Hector Velasco Perroni et al.

In his closing address which highlighted countries running out of time in respect of climate change, Naidoo called for nations to do a reality check and for those not prepared to join the agreements to move aside.

He said if legislation could be used against a political leader who violated his people’s human rights, then something could be done about governments implementing harmful policies. 

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A bleak picture of the future of the earth and its inhabitants was painted by two of the United Kingdom's leading experts in the field of climate change when they addressed a public lecture at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.

Professor Hugh Montgomery and Sir Andy Haines said with the increase in devastating weather patterns, mental health disorders and communicable and lifestyle diseases, the effects of climate change on public health could not be ignored.  

To ensure the survival of mankind, there needed to be no carbon emissions 20 years from now.

Households needed to urgently change from coal-based energy to solar powered energy and people should be encouraged to walk and cycle rather than use motor vehicles.

The speakers said livestock production in the Food and Agriculture sector caused 80 percent of all carbon emissions.  This high consumption of meat resulted in the use of more and more land to rear livestock. 

The speakers encouraged the audience to play a role in promoting a low carbon society which would lead to better health. 

Professor Rajen Naidoo, Head of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at UKZN said:   'As medical doctors are usually the role models in society, medical students should be taught about the effects of climate change on health in the undergraduate MBChB curriculum as well as in emergency medicine and mental health programmes.' 

Montgomery is the Director of the University London College Institute for Human Health and Performance. He was the first to discover a gene for fitness. Montgomery was awarded the title of London leader for his work in climate change and health. He was also the founding member of the UK Climate and Health Council.

Haines in described in the latest edition of the Lancet as 'one of the world's most respected authorities on health and climate change'. He is currently a Professor of Public Health and Primary Care at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  Haines was knighted in 2005 for his services to medicine. 
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The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine held its Second Annual O&G Update to help improve the knowledge of practitioners on health issues plaguing South Africa.

More than 150 practitioners attended the update and heard 15 presentations from experts in various fields about Mother and Child Health Care. Issues covered included pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), ethics, contraceptives, and sexual assault. The meeting was opened by Professor Jayanthilall Bagratee who reminded practitioners of their role in helping our country achieve the Millenium Development Goals.

Guest speaker Professor Lesley Regan of the Imperial College in London addressed the issue of recurrent miscarriages.

‘Miscarriages amount to 25 percent of all diagnosed pregnancies, but informally this could reach 50 percent when one includes early, undiagnosed pregnancies. Besides the normal cases, recurrent miscarriages are underlined by other more specific reproductive issues.’

Regan’s presentation focused on Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APS) which is associated with recurrent miscarriages. ‘APS is an evolving story with new discoveries linking it to immune system disorders within pregnancies. Our research has found that patients with APS can prevent recurrent miscarriages by up to 74 percent with the use of a low dose of aspirin.’

She explained how this treatment worked in the placenta to protect the foetus from blood pressure and the hormones that contribute to miscarriage.

She also stressed that it was important to not look only at the first trimester for possible miscarriages, but to probe the defects in couples in their pre-conception state as overly fertile women had very different patterns to those who were average or infertile.

Regan said research done in the United Kingdom had found that miscarriages and abnormal pregnancies were becoming more common as women were having babies at a much later stage in their lives than previously.

The Update heard that O&G practitioners encountered victims of sexual assaults on a regular basis as the incidence of such attacks continued to increase in South Africa. A rape occurred every 35 seconds based on reported cases, while - according to government statistics - one in two cases were not reported, making rape a silent and growing pandemic.

‘Media articles show that some doctors are not keen to treat rape patients because they don’t want to testify in court as the process takes time, and ultimately money for the practitioner. Nurses further traumatise the rape patients by telling them to first report the incident to police before coming to hospital,’ said Dr R Naidoo during his presentation.

‘Rape is an act of violence and is a medical emergency and therefore doctors behave illegally when they don’t treat these patients. Societies are also demanding greater responsibilities from practitioners, and they have to be knowledgeable on how to deal with victims.’

The Minister of Police in South Africa, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, was a guest at the recent Big Debate series organised by the Graduate School of Business, addressing the topic: “The impact of crime on business.”

The debate examined the concern that small businesses are most affected by crime both directly and indirectly.

Other members of the panel were: Mr Andrew Layman, Chair of the Durban Chamber of Commerce, Ms Farzanah Mall of the Business Women’s Association and Mr Moses Tembe, the joint Chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Growth Coalition.

Mthethwa spoke on the positive impact the police had achieved in combating crime this year as shown by the large decrease in various offences.

‘The progress we have made and the victories we continue to score are a reflection of the commitment and dedication by South African citizens to the cause of peace and social progress.’

Mthethwa suggested the formation of strategic partnerships between the police, businesses and communities to further decrease the rate of crime.

‘The “shoot to kill” method has proven successful as criminals know that police will retaliate with gunfire when they are attacked. They now have reason to fear the wrath of the police,’ he said.

Mthethwa stressed that shortfalls in the police needed to be addressed by proper management and leadership. He also emphasised the need to strengthen forensic labs to raise the level of convictions.

On the issue of small businesses suffering more from violent crimes than big businesses, Thembe said: ‘The major problem about crime in South Africa is that it is often accompanied by extreme violence. It is these high levels of violence that constrain growth by increasing costs to companies through medical-aid payments, fraud, loss of output due to copper wire theft, violent injuries and the death of workforce members among others.

‘Crime has decreased the effectiveness of business investments by negatively affecting the South African brand for foreign investments and partnerships.  As the business sector we need to work together with the community and the police to eradicate the popular perception of crime as an acceptable norm. Leaders must lead by example and we must go back to the Ubuntu and community care principles that built us as a good nation before,’ he concluded.

Mall addressed the issue of sexual assault and rape against women and children. She questioned whether women were able to run successful businesses in city centres without fearing for their safety.

Layman said small businesses did not have the capacity to hire private security companies and were at a higher risk of closure due to crime. ‘Large companies charge the cost of crime to customers with high mark-ups,’ he said.

Layman also noted that protective measures small business had to take to protect their merchandise damaged relationship with customers.

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The College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science honoured dedicated and committed staff members at functions on the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

Professor Rob Slotow, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College, was on hand to welcome those receiving awards, while Professor Deo Jaganyi, Dean of Research in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science delivered the eulogies and presented tokens of appreciation.

Awards were handed out to staff members who had served UKZN for either 15 or 25 years.  Jaganyi, who received his own 15 year award in 2010, expressed his admiration for those who had made the 25 year mark.

In addition to these awards, the events doubled as a celebration for outgoing staff members who will retire soon.

One very special guest was a pooch called Misty - the faithful companion of Mr John Woodley of the Electronic Unit on the Pietermaritzburg campus. ‘Wherever I go, Misty comes too,’ said Woodley who received a 25 year award.

Misty is not lagging far behind his human friend – this particular canine is due her UKZN 15 year Long Service Award in 2013.

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There are 1 000 new HIV and AIDS infections everyday in South Africa and the country uses 20 percent of the world’s antiretroviral drugs.

These were among statistics which came out of the three lecture series held at UKZN’s Westville and Medical School campuses to commemorate World AIDS Day.

Motivational speaker, activist and IEC Facilitator on HIV and AIDS, Ms Cindy Pivacic, who has been living positively with HIV and AIDS since November 2004, gave an address titled: “Welcome to my Journey,” in which she advised people to open up about the disease.

Pivacic told staff and students that if ever they had a gut feeling to tell somebody, they should do so, explaining how she had kept her status a secret from her family and friends. ‘It took me six years to get to where I am,’ adding that she only went public with her status in January 2011.

Changing one’s diet, exercise, joining a support group and talking to people were among ways that could contribute to living longer with the disease.

‘I am living proof that a healthy lifestyle can prolong your existence; if you have prior knowledge of what to do, where to go and when and how to do it,’ said Pivacic.

Mr Oziel Mdletshe facilitated an open discussion and shared his experience as a person living with HIV. The theme for 2011 World AIDS Day is, Getting Zero-Zero AIDS-Related Deaths.

According to the latest South African National Survey conducted in 2009, there are about 33,4 million people living with HIV and AIDS - 5,3 million of those are in South Africa which ranks in the top five highest HIV prevalence countries in the world with an estimated 17.5 percent of the population infected.

During her welcome speech, Executive Director of Corporate Relations at UKZN, Ms Nomonde Mbadi, backed the call from government to support a prevention strategy. Mbadi also acknowledged Mdletshe’s efforts in promoting and creating awareness of HIV and AIDS.

Mdletshe was among one
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