As part of a long-term goal of training a new generation of scientists in Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) at UKZN hosted a five-day basic biostatistics course.


The course was presented by Dr Lori Chibnik, a Biostatistician and Instructor in Neurology at the Harvard Medical School in the United States, and was attended by Professor Joyce Tsoka-Gwegweni, Associate Professor and Acting Academic Leader: Public Health at UKZN, as well as 25 faculty and student participants and a visiting clinical scientist from Mali.


Biostatistics is the science which applies statistical theory and methods to the solution of problems in biological and health sciences.


The course gave participants an overview of the various biostatistical methods used in medical research so they could both employ these techniques in their own research and better understand the results presented in medical literature. It reminded participants that in order to be a successful scientist, a basic level of statistics is required.


Participants also learned the principles of applied biostatistics, including summary statistics, t-tests, ?² tests, Odds Ratios (ORs) and Risk Ratios (RR); basic concepts in epidemiology, including study design and bias; and gained hands-on experience working with data from their own projects or other projects.


Chibnik, who stressed the importance of developing skills for reading and critically analysing scientific literature, said the workshop participants were attentive and eager to learn.


Participants lauded Chibnik’s teaching strategy which was didactic and encouraged classroom discussion. The workshop presented hands-on design and analysis exercises with relevant data sets.


Dr Kamini Govender, a postdoctoral candidate at UKZN’s HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP), said she found the workshop very interesting and important for the writing of statistics in her paper.


Masters students in Medical Biochemistry, Ms Charlotte Tiloke and Mr Jared Mackenzie, said the workshop answered all their questions and exceeded their expectations.


Funding for this workshop was provided by K-RITH and the Harvard Centre for AIDS Research. K-RITH aims to host further biostatistics courses in the future.


 For more information contact Dr Victoria Kasprowicz, K-RITH Director of Education and Training at:

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New UKZN Convocation Executive Committee members were elected at the Convocation’s recent Annual General Meeting on the Westville campus attended by more than 130 alumni.

This is an institutional event organised by the Alumni Relations Office of the Corporate Relations Division and the voting process is administered by the Registrar's Office.

Mr Fanle Sibisi was elected as the new Convocation President while two Council representatives and six Convocation Executive members were also elected.

Guest speaker, UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, urged Convocation members to give back to the University. ‘UKZN’s alumni have the loyalty and devotion to create scholarships for our students in desperate need to obtain a Higher Education qualification. Our country needs engineers, accountants, doctors and scientists among others. You can do it,’ said Makgoba.

He reminded the audience that Convocation was the largest stakeholder grouping at the University (UKZN has over 140 000 alumni) and is an important voice to change the future of the Institution.


He also thanked alumni for attending the event and having an interest in the University. ‘I admire the depth of your commitment. Some of you here this evening obtained your degrees almost four decades ago. And yet, you grace the alumni events with zest and enthusiasm. Thank you.’


Makgoba outlined the history of the University and thanked individuals and the families who have made and still continue to make donations to the University. He said each campus had its own rich history to tell.


He acknowledged Mr TB Davis who donated a substantial sum of money in memory of his son Howard to construct the Howard College building; missionaries Mr Alan Taylor and Mr James McCord who fought tirelessly to establish the medical school; the Joosub Family Trust which made a generous donation towards the development of the Westville campus, and the Campbell family who bequeathed the family home and the Killie Campbell library with priceless collections and the best African art collections in the southern hemisphere.

Former Convocation President, Mr Sandile Ngcobo, extended his thanks to Convex and the University stakeholders for the valuable support during his term of office. ‘I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have helped me grow in my leadership position,’ he said.

The meeting concluded with refreshments and musical entertainment.
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The lecture series offered by K-RITH – the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV - has become a highlight on the calendar of students at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine (NRMSM) who aim to be world-class scientists and researchers.


The lectures, hosted by K-RITH’s Education and Training Programme, involve international experts coming onto campus as guest lecturers to present on various stimulating topics to staff, students and interested health practitioners.


On 9 May, K-RITH hosted Dr Thomas Ebenhan of NECSA (Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa), who presented a lecture titled: “Research Adventures in Molecular Imaging: A Retrospective Insight”!


On 10 May, Dr Sanjay Jain, Associate Professor of Paediatrics and International Health Director of the Centre for Infection and Inflammation Imaging Research, spoke on: “Monitoring Infections with Imaging in the 21st Century”.


Both presenters reflected on their journeys as researchers, reminding audience members about the importance of conducting ground-breaking research in an effort to improve the well-being of mankind.


Ms Letato Motisa, a Masters student in Pharmaceutical Chemistry said it was her first time attending the lecture series and she would definitely attend again. She found Ebenhan’s presentation informative and insightful, making her reflect much on her own study.

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First year dentistry students have completed a 13-week-long Life Skills Training Programme which is now an accredited module.


The module is a comprehensive academic and personal skills development programme geared towards empowering students with skills to give them a competitive edge in the work environment. It will also make them more marketable and confident in order to meet the challenges facing them in their academic careers and personal lives.


Today’s institutions of higher learning are expected to equip students with knowledge and skills which reflect contemporary trends in the global labour market and are cognisant of recognised employer criteria for employability.


Dentistry at UKZN seeks to achieve excellence in the provision of education and training programmes aimed at recruiting and developing oral health personnel who can respond appropriately to the needs of the people they serve, with emphasis on the primary health care approach.


Mrs Wulli Thaver, Life Skills Officer in the College of Health Sciences (CHS), explained that discipline-specific knowledge alone was deemed insufficient to meet employer demands for multi-skilled, socially competent graduates capable of making a meaningful contribution to the economy and society at large.


‘Emphasised in the literature is the responsibility of tertiary institutions to provide students with a broad-based education consisting of degree-specific knowledge as well as generic life skills which can be utilised across situations and contexts,’ said Thaver.


‘Life skills are identified in the literature as integral to academic success, student retention, personal and professional development as well as increasing one’s chances of employability.’


The programme has equipped the students with the following skills: time management and goal-setting; note-taking and reading; study skills and critical thinking; effective team work; effective communication skills; oral presentation skills; building self-esteem; assertiveness and conflict resolution; disability awareness and communicating with persons with disabilities; work ethics and professional behaviour in the work place; examination preparation and stress management.


Thaver said students responded with enthusiasm and participated actively in the programme. ‘Every session was evaluated and students reported positively on their experiences.’


Class representative, Ms Anisa Talib Ally, said the programme changed her thinking and the way she conceived ideas. ‘Mrs Thaver is a dynamic person and she delivers valuable advice and information.’


Mr Joshua Nkosi, who is passionate about helping people, agreed with Ally saying he found the programme both entertaining and educating.


Thaver reminded students that the College’s Student Support Services were there to support them at all times as they progressed through their studies at UKZN.
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UKZN’s multi-talented Professor Suria Govender will appear in the Afrikaans TV soapie, 7de Laan, later this month.  Govender will play Asha’s mom, Mrs Sharma, who comes to Johannesburg to visit her daughter who has found a job there.

‘Mrs Sharma is very protective when she finds her daughter succumbing to the charms of the handsome Sanjay especially as mom has her sights set on Asha’s childhood friend who having just returned from studying at Harvard is a very suitable, prospective son-in-law,’ she explained.

Govender auditioned for the role and was ecstatic when she got it. Amid juggling her son’s wedding and her PhD studies in Higher Education, Govender proved that she had it in her to strike a balance and to deliver a stellar performance.

She worked 12-hour filming days and also spent many weekends filming on set either in Johannesburg or Durban. While comparing her experiences on the set of 7de Laan with that of the movie, For Better or Worse, she said, ‘Being sensitive to many cameras and being given the next day’s script when you left the 7de Laan set each evening, was very different to single camera shoots with the complete script available from the first day. All in all both were extremely demanding acting experiences.’

Govender also pointed out that the creation of Mrs Sharma illustrated that the scriptwriters of the soapie did their homework because they wrote her character as a modern Indian mom and not necessarily stereotypically Indian in attitude or dress.

‘I’d rather think of my character as any mom - Afrikaans, Indian or  Zulu - who keeps an eye out for a good match but loves her daughter enough not to force her to do anything,’ she said.

Asked about working alongside veteran actors Kajal Bagwandeen, Usha Khan and Strini Pillay, Govender said, ‘I’ve played Kajal’s mom before and we know each other well as both of us are very active in the dance world. I enjoyed working with Strini Pillay especially as I was his Lecturer at the former University of Durban Westville’s Drama Department and we had a great time rehearsing together.’

Govender’s first appearance in the soapie is on 28 May.

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Mr Yibeltal Bayleyegn recorded an impressive double when he completed his second Masters degree through UKZN.


Bayleyegn, whose latest Masters degree is in Applied Mathematics, is now settling in to his PhD.


Born and raised in Dejen, Ethiopia, he did his BSc degree in Mathematics at Bahir Dar University in 2000 and was immediately employed as a Graduate Assistant at the university.  He went on to complete his MSc in Differential Equations at the Addis Ababa University in 2004.


Bayleyegn said after lecturing at Bahir Dar University for three years he travelled to Cape Town, South Africa to undertake a one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Mathematical Sciences in 2008 at the highly respected African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).


AIMS, which is a joint project of six universities, builds core mathematical skills in Africa, as well as introduces students to innovative scientific topics relevant to a day-to-day life. ‘The world-class education and cutting-edge curriculum at AIMS changed my interest towards applied mathematics,’ said Bayleyegn.  ‘I was introduced to the fascinating field of Mathematical Biology (Applied Mathematics), and took many courses.’  Bayleyegn subsequently decided to focus his research career in this field. 


After a stint back home in Ethiopia, in 2011 Bayleyegn registered at UKZN for a Masters degree under Professor Kesh Govinder, Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.


His research focused on identifying and modeling the dynamics of a core cancer sub-network. Under Govinder’s supervision he identified and modelled some key regulatory components of the cancer network at the R-checkpoint during the G1-to-S transition of the cell cycle. ‘Understanding and modelling the dynamics of the concentration (protein level) of some genes at this checkpoint has the paramount advantage for controlling, and possibly treating, human cancer,’ Bayleyegn explained. 


Baylegegn won second prize for his poster presentation at the 2011 Faculty of Science and Agriculture’s Postgraduate Research Day.   His enthusiasm for his topic led him to register for a PhD in 2012 and he has developed his Masters research into a PhD-level problem.


Bayleyegn expressed his appreciation for the excellent supervision and warm welcome he had received from Professor Govinder, for financial assistance received from AIMS and UKZN in the pursuit of his studies, and to his wife, Hirut Assaye, for patience, encouragement and understanding.


Bayleyegn enjoys football and swimming in his spare time and is a fan of all genres of science fiction.

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‘Two words describe my current state of being right now: excitement and anxiety,’ beamed Mr Siyasanga Tyali.

A postgraduate student from the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), Tyali is set to begin a four-month intensive internship at the Centre for Communications Programmes (CCP) within Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the United States.

According to Tyali, the internship is an added benefit of being a Ford Foundation International Fellow for the 2011/2012 period.

‘It’s my first trip out of South Africa and to the United States. Of course, leaving the country for the first time involves both exciting and nerve racking feelings. I guess I’m in that part of my life where I can now say I’m nervous about going yet excited about leaving,’ he said.

Tyali, a Masters of Social Science student, will audit some of the CCP’s health communication courses and will work on African-based radio projects.

‘I have huge expectations for this internship. It’s an opportunity to work with world-class health communications experts. The CCP’s South African office has created and contributed to the successful Intersexions, Sex Tips 4 Girls and Brothers for Life among other projects.

‘The CCP has offices throughout the world and learning about Entertainment-Education from experts is definitely a once in a life time opportunity.’

Baltimore will be Tyali’s home for the upcoming months but he plans to visit New York City and Washington DC and can’t wait to visit Times Square.

Tyali will also participate in the 25th annual Leadership in Strategic Health Communications workshop in Baltimore in June. The event draws select health communications practitioners from across the globe.
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For UKZN Law student Mr Mxolisi Ncube cycling has become the “wind beneath his wings”.

In his final year of study, Ncube cycles for enjoyment and a healthy lifestyle but also to help the needy.

Ncube joined UKZN in 2002 but was forced to halt his studies to assist his parents to put his siblings through school.

His dream to visit Cape Town came true recently when he won a 5FM competition to participate in the Cape Argus with three time former Cyclo-cross World Champion, Mike Kluge.

‘The biggest blessing was that it was on my 28th birthday. Mike Kluge and I rode a tandem bike to raise funds to buy bicycles for young people in Gugulethu. This has been Mike's project since 2005,’ said Ncube.

He added that the race involved an exciting tour of the Cape. ‘I really enjoyed the fast downhills, Chapmans Peak Drive and all the uphills that built character in my legs that were starting to cramp. Happily, we finished the race in style.’ 

Ncube is part of the Green Office Cycling team which assists quadriplegics and other disabled members of society who want to ride.  He says team members ride alongside quadriplegics in KwaZulu-Natal and throughout the country.

‘We recently rode the Tour Durban with Ari Seirlis, Chief Executive Officer of QuadPara Association SA. I really enjoyed riding for this team - it has taught me that in life you are your own worst enemy if you don’t persevere to overcome any adversity and live life to the full every day.

‘Success in everything that you do involves an attitude of “aspire to inspire before you expire”.

Cycling is my source of peace, solace and freedom, in simple words my spiritual experience, my time alone with GOD to talk to him.’

Ncube juggles studies and work but still manages to find time to cycle. He is currently working at UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division.

‘While I am still at UKZN I envision using cycling in every way possible to enrich the lives of others. Community engagement is one of the goals of the University and I would like to empower and encourage the youth, both disabled and able bodied, to join the fastest growing sport in the country and make a difference,’ he said.

Ncube thanked Mrs Twane Palmer who told him about the 5FM competition and always encouraged him to reach for his dreams, and Executive Director: Corporate Relations, Ms Nomonde Mbadi, who inspired him to always look for opportunities and grab them with both hands.

UKZN’s Corporate Relations Division helped sponsor his trip to Cape Town.

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Abafundi, abafundisi nezihambeli bagcwale eHoward College Theatre emcimbini wokukhanyisa amakhandlela kwesekwa abaphila nabalwa negciwane lengculazi.

Abe-AIDS Programme e-UKZN bagubhe lolusuku olwengcinwa umhlaba wonke ukuze bakhumbuze umphakathi waseNyuvesi ngalempi baphinde bakhuthaze abantu ngeqhaza abangalibamba ekulweni nalesifo.

‘Lomcimbi ukhumbula asebasishiya belwa nalesisifo. Banikeza ithemba kulabo abaphila nalesisifo nalabo abenza yonke imizamo ukuze kunqotshwe lempi,’ kusho uNksz Noxolo Batembu, oyiHealth Promoter e-UKZN.

‘Kufanele sikhumbule ukuthi noma sekunezihlobo zethu esezihambile, kodwa singaphila ngokuzithemba noma ngabe uphila noma awuphili nalo,’ kusho uBatembu.

Umcimbi uvulwe ngomthandazo wenkumbulo kanye nenkulumo kaSolwazi wezocwaningo ngesifo sengculazi nesandulela ngculazi, uThumbi Ndung’u, ophinde abe nguMqondisi weHIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) ngaphansi kwesikole sobudokotela e-UKZN.

Ukhulume ngezindlela ezintsha zokuvikela lesifo nangezinto ezithusayo ngesimo sengculazi nesandulela ngculazi emphakathini.

‘Abantu abasha bangakuvimba ukwanda kwalesifo ngokusebenzisa izivikelo esezikhona. Bangenza nocwaningo ukuze bazame ukuqhamuka namasu amasha okulwa nalesifo,’ kusho uNdung’u.

Abesigungu esimele abafundi kanye nezinye izimenywa banikezwe umentshisi umuntu eyedwa ukuze bakhanyise ikhandlela lomuntu oseduze kwakhe. Kuqhubeke kwaze wonke umuntu wakhanyiselwa ikhandlela obekuchaza ukubambisana ekulweni nalesifo.

‘Sidinga ukubambisana ukuze sivikele ukutheleleka okusha, ukubandlululeka, nokushona kwabantu ngenxa yengculazi nesandulela ngculazi,’ kusho uBatembu.

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Postdoctoral Fellow at UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Dr Mandisa Mbali, recently presented her research on AIDS Activism and the Politics of Women’s Health in South Africa.

Mbali told assembled colleagues and graduate students from the School at a forum on the Howard College campus that ‘women activists have shaped the design and implementation of sexual and reproductive health policies in South Africa in changing ways over time’. 

Her talk outlined the history of women’s health and AIDS activism in South Africa since 1994, saying women activists living openly with HIV in the 1990s were socially and politically marginalised both within many mixed-gender AIDS NGOs and the country’s women’s movement. 

‘These civil society groups were, therefore, relatively silent on the shortcomings of health policy in relation to the needs of HIV-positive women.  The lack of comprehensive health policies addressing the needs of women living with HIV in the 1990s was paradoxical because it was a decade where sexual and reproductive rights were increasingly being written into South African law, including the country’s Constitution,’ she said.

Mbali situated her own research in an emerging body of literature on women’s sexual and reproductive health activism in South Africa.  Common themes expressed in this literature include the needs for:

·         Revitalisation of the sexual and reproductive health movement

·         More comprehensive counseling for women patients on sexual and reproductive medical tests and procedures

·         Greater input by women’s health activists into health policy-making

·         Costing and planning for a comprehensive set of women’s health interventions to be incorporated into plans for a National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

Her presentation was based on portions of research profiled in her book South African AIDS Activism and Global Health Politics, which she is completing under contract to Palgrave Macmillan. 

In her concluding remarks, she also spoke about a special Issue of the feminist journal: Agenda on The Politics of Women’s Health in South Africa, which she is co-guest editing with Ms Sethembiso Mthembu, a Masters student at the School.
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In a move to explore innovative approaches to providing career guidance to Grade 12 learners, UKZN organised a school seminar involving principals and career guidance counsellors at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Facilitated by a Lecturer at the School of Education, Mr Nicholas Munro,  representatives of various schools were invited to share strategies used to assist learners identify and develop their interests, values, personality and aptitude in relation to career options.

Munro recommended that educators use exciting interactive tools in praçtical exercises to teach learners to research outside usual career options.

‘It is understandable that for various reasons learners often choose to study towards a career that is popular and familiar to them. However, it is important that learners consider both traditional choices and other opportunities so they are able to conceptualise their future involvement in society,’ said Munro.

Representatives of UKZN’s four Colleges also had the opportunity to address representatives on the programmes offered and participate in a question and answer session. Feedback included the need for learners to be guided in recognising their skills in advance so that they avoid pursuing careers which do not lead to fulfilment and interest. 'As educators, we see a great need to ensure that every learner is equipped to make crucial life decisions,' said one of the participants.

Highlighting the vast array of programmes and opportunities the University offers, Executive Director of Corporate Relations, Ms Nomonde Mbadi, spoke about the necessity for partnering with the schooling fraternity to assist learners.

‘Most of the bad choices made take place long before matric,' said Mbadi. ‘We are aware of the need to get involved a little early on in providing information that allows for better decision making by parents as they decide on subject choices for their children.  We would like to get involved in any way that will suit schools.’

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The College of Health Sciences (CHS) Student Services Division organised a workshop for final year and postgraduate students preparing to enter the workplace.


Presented by College Career Development Officer, Dr Vasi Govender, the workshop focussed on preparing a professional curriculum vitae (CV), how to write a winning application letter and acquiring effective interview skills.


Govender reminded students they had been educated by an institution of international acclaim.


The workshop, which equipped students with a toolkit for personal marketing when job-hunting, also explained the appropriate use of body-language and body image in an interview and/or presentation.


Students were required to complete a CV template and prepare an application letter for an internship, full-time job, part-time job or voluntary work. They were also told how to brand themselves to add value to an organisation.


A role-playing and mock-interview session on preparing for job interview was well received. Govender stressed the importance of researching the prospective company before an interview.


Govender also presented research conducted with employers who recruited graduates from UKZN. This provided students with a realistic insight on the topics:  “what makes a winning interview”, “what competencies are required for a new graduate to secure employment”, “employers’ description of a high quality graduate”, and “the value of part-time, community and voluntary work experience”. 

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The College of Humanities’ School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC) recently hosted the regional Head of the Bible Society of South Africa (BSSA), Reverend Dirk Gevers.

This was the first visit by the BSSA to the School and followed the Society’s generous donation of more than 50 Hebrew and Greek Bibles to UKZN students studying biblical or classical Hebrew and Hellenistic Greek.

Dr Gosnell Yorke, a Lecturer in the SRPC and Co-ordinator of the Bilingualism Project in the School, came up with the idea for the donation. 

Before joining UKZN, Yorke, who teaches Hellenistic Greek, served as the first (and only) Caribbean-born translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (UBS) of which the BSSA is a member.    

During his visit, Gevers met with the Dean and Head of School, Professor Isabel Phiri, as well as a number of SRPC staff to explore ways and means of collaborating further.  In particular, the School is interested in involving its students and staff in research related to the interdisciplinary field of Bible translation. 

Gevers also met and interacted with the students who received the Bibles.   

The largest Bible society in Africa, the BSSA was officially organised in the 1960s but traces its roots back to the 19th century when it was linked to the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) founded in 1804. 

The BSSA, which has its headquarters in Cape Town, is a member of the Global Fellowship of Bible Societies called the United Bible Societies (UBS). 

The UBS is the world’s biggest translator, publisher and distributor of the Bible and is committed to making the Bible –in print or non-print form – available and affordable in all the world’s languages.

‘Because the BSSA is also committed to the valorisation of African languages via Bible translation, this visit is to be seen as part of the SRPC’s own commitment to the larger national and institutional vision and mission in which we are all being challenged to help valorise African languages as academic languages,’ said Yorke.
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