For more than 640 million  people worldwide who don’t have access to the eye care they need, a milestone has been reached with the launch of the first phase of the International Centre for Eyecare Education (ICEE) Global Optometry Resource, a free online resource for eye care education.

With the resource available to all, it makes eye care education accessible – a leap forward for those in developing and remote communities worldwide.

ICEE Global Programmes Director, UKZN’s Professor Kovin Naidoo, who is also Africa Chair of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), introduced the resource in Chicago at the World Council of Optometry global conference: Advancing Optometry Worldwide, during his opening keynote address, stating the resource was integral for the development of the necessary human resources to drive access to eye care.

‘Since inception, ICEE has been dedicated to providing eye care education opportunities in developing countries,’ said Naidoo. ‘An undertaking of this magnitude targets widespread distribution and uptake by the rapidly growing optometry education sector. It provides a stepping stone to global consistency in optometry which, for maximum impact and effectiveness, needs to be distributed to all levels of optometric training institutions, especially in countries in need, free of charge.’

Limited access to basic eye care in developing communities has been an impediment to the reduction of poverty with the implications being vast at every level. The cost to the global economy of a lack of access to eye care for those with uncorrected refractive error (short-sightedness and far-sightedness) is estimated at US$269 billion in lost productivity every year.

Until now, the lack of educators and teaching material have made eye care education more complicated in the developing world and impacted on the quality of education and on the preparedness of students on graduation to meet the public health challenges. But through the ICEE Global Optometry Resource, access is now available free of charge anywhere in the world.

The platform contains learning materials based on the ICEE curriculum flexibly designed to meet the variations in different developing world contexts. A first of its kind in the optometric industry, the platform creates a highly visible, long lasting footprint in the development of eye care across the world for new and established schools.

An open source educational platform for optometry, the resource gives the world access to the core teaching and learning units of an optometry degree programme in a downloadable format and enables educators and students to access course notes and PowerPoint presentations made available by some of the finest optometric educators in the world.  

ICEE has been delivering optometry courses in collaboration with local partner universities where they are in most need in countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Eritrea, and the resources have been well received.

Mr Luigi Bilotto, ICEE Director of Global Human Resource Development, said: ‘It’s a truly ground breaking project in a long programme to develop a sufficient number of skilled eye care workers to provide the level of eye care access needed.’

The resources are targeted, in particular, at those working in areas where previously there has been little, if any, eye care education.
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The Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) UKZN team was recently crowned winners of the 2012 national competition and will represent South Africa at the SIFE World Cup in Washington in September.

The development and implementation of outstanding sustainable community outreach projects in their surrounding communities won the competition for the team.

Said SIFE President, Mr Thembalethu Mkhize: ‘The team feels ecstatic and motivated to produce work of a high calibre while improving the quality of life of people we work with on our projects. We are dedicated to making the university and the country proud.’

SIFE is an international non-profit organisation active on more than 1 600 university campuses in 39 countries.

In the first round of the national competition, teams are divided into four leagues, two from each league advance to the semi-final round. In the semi-final, the eight teams are divided into two leagues of four teams per league. Two teams from each league in the semi-final advance to the final round. The four teams in the final round then compete for the coveted SIFE national championship trophy.

UKZN competed against 26 other Higher Education institutions winning in the final round against the University of Zululand, University of Pretoria and the University of Fort Hare.

‘The national competition is always an inspiration. The level of innovation and hard work put in by other teams to execute projects to change the lives of the people is encouraging and captivating,’ said Mr Zukile Xelelo, SIFE International Relations and Policy Officer.

‘Winning the national competition is an indication that the projects we execute in the communities are effective, sustainable and have a huge impact in the lives of our beneficiaries. Our achievement is an affirmation that SIFE-UKZN is really changing people’s lives for the better.

‘We are very humbled by the faith put upon our team by judges, all SIFE teams and SIFE SA by choosing us to go and represent the country at the international platform,’ said Xelelo.

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Two UKZN researchers are among the 10 winners of the 2012 L’Oréal-UNESCO Regional Fellowships for Women in Science (FWIS) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is the second consecutive year that 10 inspiring women scientists from the region have been honoured for their work in the scientific field by L’Oréal-UNESCO and awarded fellowships of US$20 000 (R165 000) to put towards their PhD research.

The two UKZN women are Ms Mopo Leshwedi-Radebe, who is attached to the HIV Pathogenesis Programme (HPP) at the University, and Ms Mercy Ojoyi of Kenya.

The scientific research areas being covered by this year’s fellows are varied and include studies in the fields of computer science, microbiology, environmental science, pharmaceutical microbiology, environmental health, dermatology, genetics, biomedical technology and molecular biology.

The fellowships are open to all women scientists up to the age of 40 across Sub-Saharan Africa who are working towards their PhDs in all fields of science. It was first piloted in 2010 and following the overwhelming success of the initial programme, the L’Oréal Foundation doubled the number of fellows to 10.

Leshwedi-Radebe joined the HPP at UKZN from the Medical Research Council about two and a half years ago. ‘Under the supervision of the programme’s Director, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, I can say that I have truly grown and flourished as a young scientist.’

Her research is titled: “Patterns and features of HIV-1-specific CD8+ T-cell responses during acute HIV-1 infection and their association with viral control”.

The study aims to address critical immunologic, virologic and host genetic factors associated with control and lack of control of the clade C virus in both the acute and primary phases of infection. These issues are critical for HIV vaccine design and for understanding HIV pathogenesis.

‘The immediate benefit of this study is the rapid diagnosis of acute HIV infection. The long-term follow-up of these subjects will also help identify host immunological and genetic factors associated with the control of HIV infection and delayed disease progression. It will also allow us to define the earliest pathways to immune escape in the viruses prevalent in South Africa,’ said Leshwedi-Radebe.

Leshwedi-Radebe says she is absolutely delighted with being awarded the fellowship. ‘I am extremely excited about winning the award as well as the financial support it offers. It will go a long way in ensuring that I only stress about science and experiments, not how I will get by from day to day. I honestly believe that if we had more funding available for aspiring scientists there would be 10 scientists for every one we have currently.’

Ms Ojoyi’s background in Environmental Science at Moi University in Kenya provided professional and solid foundation experience in the process of her career development in science before she started work on her doctorate in Environmental Science at UKZN.

Her current research involves assessing dynamics of climate and its impact on natural ecosystems in East Africa using advanced remote sensing techniques. ‘The study aims to specifically understand ecosystem dynamics in the Eastern Arc Mountains in East Africa, and impacts on biodiversity, including anthropogenic and climatic factors.’

Ultimately, the study aims to advance current knowledge in planning measures for action in vulnerable areas as well as those already affected. It will also contribute towards prioritization of potential scenarios for biodiversity conservation and climate change protection – two key areas currently lacking in most African states.

Ojoyi says she is honoured to receive the fellowship which will go a long way in helping facilitate her research requirements, particularly her fieldwork, which is a major challenge with field data having to be collected in extremely remote and inaccessible areas.

A total of five South African women were among the 10 winners.

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Patent protection of medicines which often prevents drugs being available and affordable for all who need them is the focus of research by UKZN law Professor Yousuf Vawda.

Vawda is examining the creation of a system of proper patent examination, which does not permit granting of new patents on frivolous and minor improvements on medicines.

The issue of patent laws is currently in the media spotlight following the court battle between pharmaceuticals giant Novartis and the Indian government.

According to an article published in the Mail & Guardian newspaper, Novartis has challenged a provision in Indian patent law, which prevents drug companies from extending monopolies on life-saving drugs. India produces 80 percent of the antiretrovirals (ARVs) used in Africa and victory for the pharmaceutical company could endanger the supply of affordable generic drugs to developing countries.

Vawda says that in South Africa, as with most other developing countries, life-saving medicines are often unaffordable for the majority of the population.

‘A major cause of this inaccessibility is the existence of 20-year patents on every new medicine. This means that during the life of a patent, competitors are excluded from making and selling cheaper versions of those medicines called generics.’

Vawda said while South Africa was obliged in terms of its international law obligations to recognise such patents, there were important mechanisms (called flexibilities) which it could adopt to offset the most harmful effects of such strong patent protection on medicines.

‘My research has a two-fold purpose to help address these challenges: to explore these possibilities in the law and to provide support to both government and NGOs who seek to improve the law in order to achieve better access to medicines for all who need them.

‘One such flexibility is a compulsory licence, which government can grant to itself or a third party, without the permission of the patent holder, to produce and market needed medicines. To date, South Africa has not granted a single such licence for a medicine, despite the often excessive prices charged for medicines,’ he said.

In 2011, Vawda wrote a paper titled: “Pharmaceutical Innovation, Incremental Patenting and Compulsory Licensing Country Case Study: South Africa”. This was part of a study commissioned by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) on this topic in five developing countries, namely, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India and South Africa.

The IDRC is a public corporation created by the Canadian government to help communities in the developing world find solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems.

Vawda said the IDRC provided support for the investigation into the effects of patent laws on the ability of the five countries, to promote local pharmaceutical innovation; the types and volumes of patents they were granting on pharmaceutical products and processes; and the extent to which mechanisms such as compulsory licences were used to promote access to medicines.

The study, he says, demonstrated that South Africa’s patenting system, which does not entail a detailed search of existing patents nor does it conduct substantive examination of patent applications, results in the granting of thousands of “inferior” patents. This includes patents on minor improvements on pharmaceuticals, which causes competition by generic manufacturers to be delayed or deferred indefinitely, thus preventing public access to cheaper medicines.

The study also showed that this system mainly benefits foreign companies, rather than local inventors. In one year alone (2008), of the 2442 pharmaceutical patents granted, only 16 were granted to local companies.
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Abacwaningi besemhlabeni wonke bahlangenyele ukuzoshintshisana ngocwaningo kakhulukazi kwezokuxhumana kwezengculazi nesandulela ngculazi (HIV/AIDS) kukomfa i-International Association of Media and Communication Research Conference (IAMCR) ebibanjelwe esikungweni saseHoward College.

Umcwaningi wase-Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) e-UKZN, uDkt Nyasha Mboti, wazise izihambeli ngokushintsha kwezokuxhumana ngesifo sengculazi nesandulela ngculazi.

‘Ngokwenza izifundo zami zePhD kwezamafilimu nezomabonakude ngikhethe ukuthula kulekomfa ngezokuxhumana uma kuza kwezempilo ngoba nginabantu bakithi nabangani abaphethwe yilesifo,’ kusho uMboti.

UMboti ukhombise ngesimo esijwayelekile sokuthola lesisifo ngokuba nabantu abaningi othandana nabo. Ukhulume ngendlela endala ebizwa nge“surplus slot model” okuyona ndlela ezama ukuthuthukisa isimo sanamhlanje kubhekwa kakhulukazi izimo ezibhekene nabantu besilisa nabesifazane uma befuna ukuba nomuntu oyedwa abathandana naye. Lezizimo usibiza nge“surplus-slots”.

Abanye abacwaningi baseCCMS abethule ucwaningo lwabo bekukhona uSolwazi Keyan Tomaselli, uNksz Eliza Govender noDkt Lauren Dyll-Myklebust.  Bakhulume kakhulukazi ngokufundisa ngesifo ngezithombe noma ngemidlalo begxila esiqubulweni sekomfa esithi iSouth – North Perspective

Click here for English version
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UKZN spent 67 minutes helping surrounding communities in honour of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July.

Mandela Day is an annual celebration of the icon’s life in which everyday people around the world are encouraged to do something for 67 minutes to make an imprint and change the world around them for the better.

For the UKZN community, the day started with the opening of the Children’s Play Therapy Room for abused children at the Department of Social Development offices in Hammersdale. The room was named after Child Protection Co-ordinator, Mr Mlondolozi Khanyile, for his contribution to uplifting the lives of people in the Mpumalanga region of KwaZulu-Natal.

UKZN in partnership with other companies organised for the room to be painted, carpeted, and for electricity to be installed. On Mandela Day, the room was decorated and equipped with toys, books and blankets.

The room will make it possible for the Department to have therapy sessions for the children or used as a waiting room while trying to find a safer shelter for them.

Khanyile thanked UKZN for making their dream a reality. He added it was important to have this room as they received a high load of child abuse cases. ‘It is important when working with kids to have a conducive environment where they can relate,’ said Khanyile.

Among the audience were employees, crèche teachers, principals, and community members who sang to show their happiness and appreciation.

Next stop for the UKZN team was the Highway Aged where the elderly were pampered and treated to massages, pedicures and manicures as well as an afternoon movie. Tea, sandwiches and biscuits were served throughout the day.

The home was revamped with curtains in the newly established consulting room, a mirror for the ladies’ toilet, a geyser switch so that the electricity bill can be contained and skirting in the new consulting room.

The elderly could not hide their joy and gratitude and thanked the team for all the assistance they received.

Executive Director: Corporate Relations at UKZN, Ms Nomonde Mbadi, said the work done was a small contribution from the employees of the University and she was grateful to the team.
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Plastination and Application is the theme of a presentation Dr Okpara Azu, a Senior Lecturer and Prolific Researcher at UKZN’s Discipline of Clinical Anatomy, will deliver at the 16th International Conference on Plastination in Beijing, China, from 23 to 27 July.


Organised by the International Society for Plastination in partnership with the Chinese Anatomical Society, the conference follows a two-day plastination workshop at Beijing Capital Medical University.


Azu says plastination - the technique or process used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts which stay lifelike and indefinitely antiseptic – has become an invaluable resource for conducting research and training university medical students along with other departments serviced by anatomical resources, especially on the African continent.


Plastination helped cushion problems caused by the shortage of cadavers at medical schools and universities.


‘Human plastinated specimens are today’s milestone in medical education and have become an ideal teaching tool not only in anatomy but also in pathology, surgery, radiology and other medical sciences disciplines.


‘Efforts to revive the plastination laboratory on Westville campus are being made by the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN,’ said Azu.


The paper he will present at the Conference is titled: “Knowledge, awareness and applicability of plastination technology for anatomical teaching and studies in Nigeria: Opinions of teachers of anatomy and medical institutions”.


Under the theme: “Plastination: Trends in Technology, Education and Research”, the ICP 2012 programme will cover all areas related to plastination and preservation of biological specimens, including their potential application to clinical, functional and digital anatomy.


The Conference will provide a platform for all participants to take full advantage of the many opportunities for formal and informal interaction with colleagues from all over the world and to share knowledge of the most recent advances in technology, education and research of plastination and biological preservation.
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Proof and Proving in Mathematics Education - co-authored by Professor Michael de Villiers of Mathematics and Computer Science Education at UKZN and Professor Gila Hanna from the University of Toronto in Canada - has been published by Springer.


The book covers research developments and epistemelogical, pedagogical and historical issues related to the teaching and learning of proof.


It is the culmination of an intensive research study commissioned by the International Commission on Mathematics Instruction (ICMI) in 2007, and was preceded by a Study Conference at the National University of Taiwan in Taipei during 2009. Fifty four authors from 30 countries around the world were involved.


The book was launched at the International Conference in Mathematics Education (ICME) held from 9-15 July in Seoul, Korea.


Samples from the book can be downloaded at:
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A paper by UKZN’s Professor Dev Tewari which was published in the global Higher Education journal, University World News, explores what doctoral research model works best for developing countries.

The paper is titled: Examination of doctoral theses/dissertations: Models, practices, and guidelines.

The research provides an analysis of two current models of dissertation/thesis examination; American and European/British and their philosophical rationale. It brings out the key differences between two models and suggests that there is a need for synchronisation of dissertation examination procedures and standards across the countries as globalization proceeds.

Tewari, who is attached to the School of Accounting, Economics and Finances, said the idea for the research came about when he noticed the difficulties university students experienced trying to produce ground-breaking research while doing their PhDs.

‘When I was the deputy Dean of the then Faculty of Management Studies in 2009 and got to deal with thesis problems, I realised there is confusion when it comes to which models of the theses is being used. There were two models, the European/British and the American and each is very different.  I thought it would be great to compare the two and weigh their pros and cons,’ explained Tewari.

‘With the American system you have to do two years of course work, many hours of written work and oral examinations in addition to the research examination. When it comes to the European/British model you concentrate on research with the guidance of your supervisor, which is a less costly option. This in my view is the best model which is why we are currently using it at UKZN,’ said Tewari.

Not willing to slow down after balancing five years of research with his academic duties, Tewari - who has already published five books on forestry - is currently writing a book on Higher Education titled: Investing in Education in South Africa. The book focuses on education as a key resource for the economic growth and development of the country.
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In the latest College of Law and Management Studies Teaching and Learning forum, Professor Manoj Maharaj facilitated a wide-ranging discussion on various aspects of e-learning, with special emphasis on the use and efficacy of real-time online collaborative tools for managing geographically diverse post-graduate students.

The presentation gave a broad overview of the nuances of e-learning, and it was pointed out that the current use of e-learning tools with traditional teaching methods necessitated defining current practices more accurately as blended learning.

An aspect debated was the concept of the Flipped Classroom where students engage with the lecture at home via online tools such as a podcast while the traditional lecture’s contact time is used to engage with unpacking academic concepts and interactive work. More about the Flipped Classroom can be found at

Maharaj, an Associate Professor in the Discipline of Information Systems in the School of Management, Information Technology and Governance, pointed to the existing UKZN infrastructure for making podcasts which was a first in South Africa but lamented it was being under-utilised at present.
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Seventeen postgraduate students from the School of Agriculture, Earth and Environmental Sciences represented UKZN at the annual Society of South African Geographers (SSAG) student conference at the University of Cape Town.

Masters and honours students from the department presented various papers, from both the sectors of physical and human geography, with topics ranging from conservation, urban planning, corruption and alternative energies to water, agriculture and environmental management.  

Thirteen of the students remained for the academic SSAG bi-annual conference, and were afforded the opportunity to interact with academics from across the country.

UKZN students were acknowledged by the SSAG President, Professor Cecil Seethal, in his address to the Society.  ‘I am pleased too that 13 UKZN Honours and Masters students who attended the students’ conference have remained for the academic conference.  These students epitomize the spirit underpinning the rationale to hold the student and the academic conferences in the same week and at the same venue.’

The conferences were highly beneficial to all who attended.

UKZN’s Mr Kamleshan Pillay was awarded best presentation prize in the Environmental Sciences category and Ms Raencine Kathlyn Aboo was the runner-up. Pillay’s research dealt with mathematical modelling to enhance efficiency of algal biofuels while Aboo dealt with issues of crime and development in the Wentwoth area of eThekwini Municipality.

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UKZN’s Centre for Adult Education and New Readers Publishers (NRP) recently hosted four visitors from Pratham, the largest non-governmental organisation in India.

The visitors, under the wing of the Director of the Family Literacy Project, Ms Lynne Stefano, learned about the work of the NRP, particularly its model of promoting reading and writing through experiential workshops. 

Pratham, which provides education to children in the slums of Mumbai, discovered it was not enough simply to make books available in minority languages.

NRP and Pratham agreed that teachers/trainers/librarians have to be shown how to use the books effectively and how to actively and enthusiastically promote books and reading.  ‘In our experience, practical, hands-on training using an experiential model works better than lectures about theories,’ said NRP’s Ms Sonya Keyser.

‘The Pratham visitors were curious about how we deal with issues around dominant languages and power. We explained that in our residential writing workshops, we have deliberately downplayed the differences between people and through the process of writing and sharing stories, people have seen that they have much in common.’

NRP and the Pratham visitors discussed ways of overcoming the challenges both projects face in publishing books for newly literate people in a multi-lingual context, where financial resources are limited and geographical distances are immense.

‘Our books are specially designed to motivate people to read so we were very pleased that our visitors could not stop themselves from reading them - even before they left the meeting! They took a complimentary sample set home as examples to show the other members of their organisation,’ said Keyser.

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Ways to manage stress in an academic environment was the thrust of a workshop organised by the College of Health Science’s Women in Leadership and Leverage Committee (WILL).


The workshop was conducted by Student Support Counselling Psychologist at UKZN, Ms Neeshi Singh-Pillay, who said academics faced a variety of challenges, many of which required meticulous time management.


‘Conducting research contributing to new knowledge in an academic’s respective field and juggling this with lecturing, student supervision, finding innovative ways to present curricula and keeping up with ever-changing technologies often cause increased levels of stress. On top of all this, academics need to strike a balance between work commitments and spending time with family and loved ones.


‘The realisation that you have significant control in your life is the essential basis of managing stress,’ said Singh-Pillay, who is studying for her PhD in Psychology.


Her presentation afforded participants an opportunity to engage in brief personal reflective exercises and provided an overview to what stress is, the various reactions to stress as well as an assortment of strategies to manage it.


Singh-Pillay said managing stress involved gaining control over one’s thoughts, behaviour, emotions and decision-making process and having the ability to acquire information about what could be causing the stress.


Social support was a major coping mechanism for dealing with stress. It was important to value interpersonal relationships and know there were people to talk to when support was needed.


‘In order to keep your mind happy you need to keep your body happy. Exercise daily, eat healthily, avoid self-medicating, get enough sleep, indulge in dark chocolate, have a massage regularly and keep in touch with your Body Mass Index.


‘Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury; and people need to re-learn this. Avoid excuses for not exercising. It is difficult to start something new, but we “can” adapt.’


Having a sense of humour was also very important.


Workshop convener and WILL Committee member, Dr Shenuka Singh, thanked Singh-Pillay for her motivational presentation.


Participants said they found the workshop refreshing and very informative.

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“Blood diamonds” were under debate when human rights activist, Mr Farai Maguwu, presented findings of his research into the Marange diamond fields in Zimbabwe to a packed seminar at UKZN’s Centre for Civil Society (CCS).

Making it clear the Marange diamonds could either be a blessing or a curse for Zimbabwe and its people; Maguwu told the audience how he had spent time in prison and had risked his life researching and documenting some of the horrific abuses taking place at the diamond fields.

He referred to the Kimberley Process intercessional meeting in Washington where the diamond monitor was urged to tackle continuing human rights violations at Marange.

‘Violence in Marange has significantly gone down. We still have isolated sporadic incidences of human rights violations and we want government to deal with the problem and also to ensure that the army is completely removed from the area,’ he said.

Maguwu said human rights violations committed by legitimate governments were affecting the diamond industry. ‘When consumers hear of human rights violations in a diamond producing community, they become skeptical.

‘They feel those diamonds could be associated with internal conflict and they don’t want to express love to their loved ones through something that was sourced from a conflict zone or something that led to the death of someone or the killing of a person.’

Maguwu proposed a Diamond Bill as a possible solution to the problem. ‘This Diamond Bill must address the issue of investor identification. Therefore, if the manner in which the companies mining in Marange is identified as not clean, the Bill must address that and ensure an open bidding process where the best players in the industry are identified and awarded the contracts.’

He added that Zimbabwean people displaced by the mining in Marange deserved proper compensation.
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