Students, staff and passers-by at UKZN’s Westville campus benefited from an eye-care awareness campaign conducted by the Discipline of Optometry to commemorate World Sight Day on October 14.  This year’s theme was “The Right to Sight” which is the campaign slogan for Vision 2020, a global campaign to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020.


Ms Pirindha Govender, a lecturer in the Discipline of Optometry said that event hoped to create awareness of the importance of good vision and vision problems amongst students and staff, and about the global situation with regards to visual impairment and blindness which represents an international public health concern.


Apart from vision screening conducted by students at the Westville campus quad, an awareness video was screened across all campuses of the University.


“It is important to create awareness of the eye clinic and its services that are available on campus,” said Ms Nasrin Essack, a third year Optometry student. “People don’t need to live with defects and these tests are done absolutely free,” she added.


The eye clinic is open to the public. Specialist clinics such as Low Vision, Binocular Vision, Paediatric Vision and a Contact lens clinic are conducted in addition to the general clinic.

author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za



Professor Alan Maryon-Davis delivered a riveting College of Health Sciences Lecture on October 14 titled, Climate Change and its Public Health Impact. The lecture delved into the dramatic changes in global health due to climate change.

Professor Maryon-Davis, an honorary professor of public health at Kings College London said that  1850 to 2010, carbon emissions have increased drastically with half of the world’s forests destroyed in the 50 years up to the year 2000. On an annual basis we lose 10 million hectares, a loss of CO2  absorption amounting to 3.2 billion tonnes and 20 football pitches a minute. Climate change is already happening.

Some examples are the Katrina disaster which cost as much as four years of war totalling $250 billion, and melting glaciers in the Himalayas that are wreaking havoc in Bangladesh leading to a rise in illegal migration to India. This has prompted India to build an immense border fence in an attempt to block newcomers. Another example of climate change is the drought in East Africa from July-October 2009. In 2010, heavy monsoon rains in north-west Pakistan caused rivers to burst their banks. At least 1 600 people are believed to have been killed and entire villages were swept away.

Climate change can affect one’s health in many ways such as heat-related problems, skin cancer and cataracts, injury and infectious disease as a result of increased flooding, respiratory disease, insect-borne diseases, food poisoning and anxiety and depression linked to physical and economic insecurity.

In 2009, the World Health Organisation released the following statement: “Climate change will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the most fundamental determinants of health: food, air and water. The warming of the planet will be gradual, but the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as intense storms, heat waves, droughts and floods, will be abrupt and the consequences will be acutely felt. The earliest and most severe threats are to developing countries, with negative implications for the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals and for health equity. It is therefore essential to formulate a clear response in order to protect human health and ensure that it is placed at the centre of the climate debate.”

The UK Health Service has an annual budget of £100 billion and employs more than 1.7 million people. It serves more than 300 million meals a year and spends over £17 billion a year on goods and services. The National Health Services in the UK also emits 20 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. Less CO2  emissions will result in financial savings, improved staff morale, faster patient recovery rates, a healthier local population and the long term viability of the healthcare service.

African literature researchers from around the world now have an additional reason to visit the Centre for African Literary Studies (CALS) on UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, after the launch of ‘The Priebe Collection’ on October 13.


This follows the purchase by CALS of a large collection of African literary material from Dr Richard Priebe, an Emeritus Professor of English and African Literature at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the United States of America.


CALS promotes research adopting a multi-faceted and versatile approach to pursuing and maintaining research in the field of African Literature and engages in community outreach projects.


Passionate about African Literature and a collector of literary material which dates back to when he was a young boy, collecting old comic books and musical records, Professor Priebe became fascinated by and began researching and collecting literary material published and produced in Ghana, which comprises the greater part of his collection.


Interviewed at the launch, Professor Priebe said: “When I went to Ghana I did not have books, the libraries did not have books, so I went out to find them.” He recalled buying books from children who were selling them on the sidewalk. 


Professor Priebe expressed his gratitude to African struggle activists who went into exile, such as the late Professor Dennis Brutus, who enhanced his interest in African literature. He said he was honoured to be in Africa and that his research and books have found a new home at CALS. The new collection will add to the collection of Dr Bernth Lindfors, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.


CALS prides itself as one of the largest repositories of African literature in the world and is excited by the scholarly significance of the collection. Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Development and Social Sciences (HDSS), Professor Nhanhla Mkhize said CALS is well-resourced to facilitate research and African Scholars
author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za



Research on communal rangeland management in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg was the focus of discussion at a recent workshop involving staff and students from UKZN’s School of Environmental Sciences and their research partners.  Including representatives from the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), Wageningen University and Research (WUR), and the University of Twente (UT) in the Netherlands, the team came together to look at the findings from South Africa Netherlands Research Programme on Alternatives in Development (SANPAD)-funded research conducted in Okhombe, a rural area in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg region.

PhD student, Ms Monique Salomon and Masters graduates, Mr Victor Bangamwabo and Mr Mphumzeni Chonco, were involved in the research which used qualitative and quantitative methods to establish: the location of households with cattle in the Okhombe area, what cattle means to the people in Okhombe and how they look after their herds, where they take their cattle to graze, the locations of gullies in the rangelands, and cattle keepers’ concern about stock theft. 

The researchers found that levels of erosion have changed little in the past 65 years in Okhombe. Although vegetation on the lower hill slopes shows signs of degradation, it is the combination of variable rainfall and drought, erosion-prone soils and steep hill slopes, compounded by colonial and apartheid policies that have driven landscape changes.  The arrival of European settlers in the 1800s, the proclamation of nature reserves in the early 1900s, a programme to settle people in villages in the 1960s, and the construction of a large dam in the 1970s have all helped to concentrate more people on less land and to restrict livestock mobility in the region.

According to Ms Salomon, their research has shown that a rotational resting system for communal grazing does not work in Okhombe.  Because cattle keepers are concerned about stock theft, they want to be able to see their herds from their homesteads.  In an effort to mitigate this ongoing problem, community members are establishing a community cattle patrol to search for stolen cattle and to prevent stock theft.  Although this initiative was not facilitated by the researchers, Ms Salomon said: “Through the involvement of community members as co-researchers, and regular meetings with community members, the research did create a platform where people could voice their concerns about stock theft, and thus was a catalyst in creating this community initiative.” 

At the workshop, participants considered policy implications of the research programme and agreed on scientific and policy publications that should emerge.  Ms Salomon said: “The research shows the importance of a holistic, systems perspective in development policy and interventions, to avoid a singular, disciplinary bias as it brings into focus the spatial and temporal dimensions of a particular issue/problem such as the management of communal rangelands, as well as the range of social, political, economic and ecological aspects that may b
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za



Tertiary education bursary opportunities previously opened to white women only through the Emma Smith Scholarship Fund will now be available to women of all races thanks to a recent Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) decision.

UKZN had won a Durban High Court battle to have the racially restrictive clause removed. However, curators of the Fund had appealed this decision and taken the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal who dismissed the matter on October 1. The Emma Smith Scholarship Fund was set up in 1941 after the passing away of Sir Charles George Smith who allocated money to the then Natal University College with the stipulation that the funds be utilised for the Higher Education of indigent white women of English or Dutch descent.

According to the Acting Director of the Student Funding Centre, Mr Richard Morrison, the annual income allocated by the Fund towards tertiary education bursaries amounted to R10 million. However, the Bursary Administrator for the Emma Smith Educational Fund discovered in 1996 that applications for bursaries by financially needy British-Dutch South African white girls had “dropped below the annual sustainable level of bursars required to fully utilise the annual distributable income from the fund.

“From 1996 the then University of Natal was trying through legal channels to have the narrow ethnic barrier broadened to be more inclusive of all needy females from the specific geographic area as set out in the Will,” said Mr Morrison.

According to Mr Morrison the restrictive clause had resulted in only R1 million or one tenth of the annual funding having been used towards bursaries. He added that statistics had shown that without the `whites only’ clause the Fund would enable the tertiary education of a further 250 females from the greater Durban area.

In response to the implications of the SCA’s decision to set aside the racially restrictive clause, Mr Morrison said: “After a long involvement with this Fund I believe it will again serve the purpose for which it was set out by Sir Charles, namely to serve the provision of Tertiary Education for needy girls whom his mother assisted in her daily rounds of social activity in her community of Port Natal.”

“The Student Funding Centre is delighted to be able to extend its bursary services to a wider community in this regard and to continue to see the educational advantaging of an important sector of our society, that being financially needy and academically performing women,” added Mr Morrison.
author email : maharajne@ukzn.ac.za



The Black Management Forum student chapter (BMFsc) on the Pietermaritzburg campus has received the 2010 BMF Best Student Chapter Award. Second runners-up were UCT and the University of Limpopo came third.

The BMFsc is the student wing of the Black Management Forum (BMF) and was founded in 1986. The student chapter operates at institutions of higher learning in all nine provinces of South Africa. It has more than 30 branches and a membership of more than 1 500 nationally. The BMFsc is one of the fastest growing student organisations within tertiary institutions. Its vision is to become the foremost organisation in the development of managerial leadership among students and in advancing broader socio-economic transformation in tertiary institutions of higher learning and beyond.

The BMFsc stands for the development and empowerment of student leadership, primarily among black students at tertiary institutions, and the creation of leadership structures and processes which will enhance the abilities, and capabilities of students on entering the labour market or corporate world. This development is underpinned by its commitment to "Developing Managerial Leadership", the motto of the BMF.

The Pietermaritzburg BMFsc expressed its gratitude to the following people who have played an indispensable role in ensuring that it is a relevant and effective society: Dr Maxwell Phiri, Ms Marie Odendaal (Mam Leadership, SLD Director), Dr Murove, Ms Lynette Ntuli, Ms Leondeka Zondi, Ms Simphiwe Mntambo (National BMFsc Deputy-Chairperson), Mr Wanda Mbokazi (PEC-Secretary) Mr Sanele Gumede (PEC-Deputy Chairperson), Howard Branch, Westville Branch, UCT Branch, UJ Branch and Proctor & Gamble (Martin and Malusi).

author email : wilsonphaks@yahoo.com



Professor Michael Meadows, one of the foremost geographers in the world, was the guest speaker at a Centenary Public Lecture hosted by UKZN’s Faculty of Science and Agriculture on the Westville campus.  His talk titled: The long and the short of it: Perspectives on Climate Change explored climate change, human-induced and natural, from a perspective gained from his extensive study of longer-term regional climate change in southern Africa.

Based at the University of Cape Town in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, Professor Meadows explained the complex scientific problem that climate change presents and its associated impacts. He showed the audience how variable the earth’s system is in its natural state to demonstrate that detection of climate change is the easy part; attribution is the more complex aspect.  In order for us to effectively implement policy changes, we have to first establish the types of human activity and other factors responsible for climate change, said Professor Meadows.  He suggested that examining the past can help us better understand certain aspects of climate change.

Professor Meadows challenged the audience to consider the natural human psychological perspective of time.  He suggested that it leaves us poorly equipped to understand the difference between directional trends and variability in environmental parameters.  He emphasised the highly variable nature of climate and said that predicting the future with any degree of certainty is very difficult.  “We don’t know enough about ‘the long’ to fully understand the ‘short’”, said Professor Meadows. 

He went on to explain that the desire of humans to constantly seek to classify things, presents a problem when dealing with climate change.  “Uncertainty is the key message.”  He urged us to recognise that we live in a variable world to which we need to adapt, and to learn to accept a more variable future.  In response to a question on what we should be teaching our children, Professor Meadows said it’s not necessarily climate change on which we should be focusing, but instead, we should be advocating things such as a pollution-free environment, recycling, and caring for the earth. 

Part of Professor Meadows’ recent research involves the rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), more commonly referred to as the ‘dassie.’  This small terrestrial mammal, which inhabits rocky terrain, leaves behind an extraordinary record of climate change, said Professor Meadows.  Rock hyraxes are very particular about where they urinate and defecate - generation after generation of rock hyraxes tend to use the same spot over and over again.

Weedbuster Week, October 4-12 is a campaign initiated by the Department of Water Affairs’ Working for Water (WfW) Programme to raise awareness of the effect of alien, invasive plants on our natural biodiversity. This year’s theme ‘My river...My life’ focuses on the invasive aquatic weeds - and that is exactly what a student in the Ward Herbarium has been doing, not only this past week but for the last 10 months!

Thanks to retired staff members Mr CJ Ward and Professor A Barnabas who studied aquatic and wetland plants either from an ecological or physiological aspect the Ward Herbarium housed in the School of Biological and Conservation Sciences on the Westville campus, undoubtedly has the best herbarium collection of plants growing in the water or in wetlands.

Presently a PhD student, Mrs René Glen, under the supervision of the Curator of the Ward Herbarium Professor Ashley Nicholas, is studying the systematic and phytogeography of the order Alismatales, a group of plants that includes most of the indigenous and alien aquatic monocot plants in southern Africa.

Hydrilla verticillata (L.f.) Royle is a very aggressive aquatic weed that belongs to the order Alismatales. It is native to Asia and is presently one of America’s worst aquatic weeds. It was first recorded in Pongolapoort Dam (also known as Jozini Dam) near Pongola in 2006. So far, this is the only dam in South Africa that has been invaded by this terrible weed and every possible effort is being made to prevent it spreading.

A monitoring programme was initiated in September 2009. The Project Leader is Ms Hlobisile Sithole of Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) of SANBI, a past student of Professor Nicholas and Dr F Smith. Funding is being provided by Working for Water. The Ward Herbarium contributes all the scientific and taxonomic information to this programme.

Pongolapoort Dam is renowned for its Tiger Fish and once a year in September a Tiger fishing competition is held. Access to the dam is mainly through the Phongolo Nature Reserve, Emzevelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, where there are two launch pads for the boats. All boats leaving the dam are washed and inspected to ensure that they are not carriers of this terrible weed.

author email : lissie1@telkomsa.net



Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Professor Sabiha Essack is the first academic to reach the finals of the MTN Foundation “National Boss of the Year” competition, which celebrated its 21st anniversary this year.


Professor Essack and the other five finalists were chosen from 15 nominees who had made it to the semi-finals. The award ceremony in Sandton Johannesburg coincided with the celebration of the National Day of the Boss on October 16.


Professor Essack was nominated by her secretary, Mrs Sandra Naidoo who said that as soon as she saw the ‘Boss of the Year’ advertisement she just knew that her boss was the ultimate candidate.


Mrs Naidoo recollects having gone through two rounds of written motivations as to why Professor Essack would be a suitable recipient of the award and then finally undergoing a verbal interview which they both agree was a challenging part of the selection process.


Although not named the 21st Boss of the Year, Professor Essack was “immensely humbled and very grateful” to her colleagues who considered her worthy of nomination for this prestigious national award which acknowledges the importance of workplace leadership.


Apart from serving as Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences for a second term from 2005 to date, Professor Essack is a researcher of national and international standing with focus areas in antimicrobial resistance in her post as Professor in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, as well as “access, retention and success in Higher Education” in her role as Dean.

Influenced by the words of former President Mr Nelson Mandela: “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination,” Professor Essack believes character and competence and an IQ balanced by emotional intelligence are what make a good boss.

“In the context of the ‘heart’, a good leader should empathise, empower, enable and embrace diversity while in the context of the ‘he
author email : memelal@ukzn.ac.za



UKZN and nearly 20 universities and Further Education and Training (FET) institutions participated in this year’s high-spirited Media, Advancement and Communication in Education (MACE) Annual Conference from October 10 to 12 in Johannesburg.


UKZN was represented by a team from the University’s Corporate Relations Division - the custodian of UKZN’s strategic communication, marketing activities and the link to the University's key stakeholders and partners and members of the UKZN Foundation team.


MACE is a membership-based professional association for capacity building and professional development through integrated marketing, communication and advancement in higher and further education within the Southern African Development Community. 


The MACE Excellence Awards are the annual highlight of the Conference. Award entries showcase the various work, projects and approaches employed by each university’s communications wing.


UKZN entered in six categories. Development Brief won the External Publications Newsletters category. Development Brief has established itself as an award-winning newsletter, and highlights the social engagement projects of UKZN and the efforts of the UKZN Foundation which make these possible


Receiving runner-up awards for excellence in their respective categories, UKZN’s Annual Report 2009 and Digital Media eNewsletter, UKZN Online, scored above 75 percent as per the adjudicators’ judging criteria.


UKZN’s School of Nursing in collaboration with Phrenaid, a non-governmental organisation that supports sufferers and family and friends of people with schizophrenia, hosted a Mental Health Workshop in honour of World Mental Health Day on October 8.


The theme for workshop was: Training in the Use of Scientific Assessment Tools for Determining Psychiatric Diagnosis and Extent of Disability and was presented and facilitated by two graduates of the advanced psychiatric nursing programme, Mrs Wendy Robinson and Mrs Rajani Isaac; and three current UKZN advanced psychiatric nursing students, Ms Lee-Ann Smith, Mrs Reena Ragawan, and Mrs Bongiwe Mthalane, as part of their Change Management Project.


Although intended for primary health care nurses and their managers, an impressive number of health professionals, psychiatric nurses and mental health care managers wanting to update their skills attended the workshop. The main objective was to establish effective, efficient psychiatric/mental health assessment and thus improve outcomes of the clinic-hospital-clinic path, and reduce family burden.

The topics presented ranged from ‘Mental State Examination: fast effective baseline assessment’, to ‘Side Effects not Symptoms!’, and screening and risk assessment tools for: Depression, Suicide, Anxiety and Dementia.

An additional programme of case studies, case presentations, and group discussions gave the delegates material they could adapt and use in their clinics or hospitals. Networking opportunities also made possible the sharing and identification of various problems and challenges faced at mental health care institutions.

Phrenaid’s Chairperson Mrs Ann D’unienville and Sister Wendy Robinson expressed their pleasure at the success of the workshop. Complimenting the students on their presentations and the value of the workshop as a whole, both also acknowledged a positive partnership between if (window.print) { window.print() }