UKZN SOCIAL SCIENCES STUDENT BEATS THE ODDS AND GRADUATES CUM LAUDE

UKZN SOCIAL SCIENCES STUDENT BEATS THE ODDS AND GRADUATES <em>CUM LAUDE</em>

Applause and ululation erupted from Mr Emmanuel Mayeza’s family as he was handed his Masters degree in Social Sciences cum laude.

Mayeza - the first person in his family to attend university – faced many challenges prior to getting his sociology degree.

He was raised by a single mother, who was the only breadwinner in the family. She earned a meagre wage yet assisted Mayeza to pay his university fees until he secured a student loan.

‘While studying, I was living at home and this meant educational resources available on campus, such as library material, computers and the internet were not always immediately accessible. Although we do have a library in the community, the kinds of materials available do not always match needs in terms of subjects and levels.

‘So I had to rely on public transport to get to campus and this cost me both in terms of money and time.  At times, I was unable to complete my work,’ he said.

His research for his Masters explored the relationship between youth school sports engagement and school performance in Chesterville, where his home is.

Given the many developmental challenges faced by his community, the study assessed how the present generation of youth in a disadvantaged neighbourhood like Chesterville could be positively impacted through sports engagement and advance in their educational achievements. 
author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

CHAKA CHAKA CHAMPIONS THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN

CHAKA CHAKA CHAMPIONS THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN

The Princess of Africa, renowned singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who received an honorary doctorate during UKZN’s 2012 Humanities Graduation ceremony, used the platform to champion the empowerment of women.

A widely respected and loved singer renowned for her humanitarian work in Africa and other parts of the world, Chaka Chaka said: ‘We need to continue with dialogue of creating cultural change of turning taboo subjects such as women empowerment into acceptable topics of discussion.

‘We also need to begin to take a look at how gender attitudes are affecting our socioeconomic and political environments, because it is just not enough to hear gender problems in the abstract, rather we need to see them face-to-face and stop making assumptions about women.’

Over the years she has championed many causes, using her voice and music to promote the rights of women and children and to campaign for education and literacy. 

Losing one of her back-up singers to Malaria prompted Chaka Chaka to form her own charity in 2007, the Princess of Africa Foundation.  Its main aim is to improve accountability and transparency in the use of funds dedicated to fighting malaria on the African continent.  She is also a goodwill ambassador for the Roll-back Malaria campaign and UNICEF, a trustee of the Tomorrow Trust which focuses on education for orphaned children, and an active supporter of Nelson Mandela’s 46664 campaign.  

Earlier this year she was presented with the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award for artists who use their talents to improve the state of the world.  She is the first African woman to receive this prestigious prize.

Of humble origins, Chaka Chaka grew up in Soweto at the height of apartheid.  She and her three sisters were raised by her mother, a domestic worker, who became the sole provider when her father died when she was only 11.  As a teenager in 1981, she was the first black child to feature on South African televisi
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

PIETER-DIRK UYS CASE STUDY EARNS STUDENT A MASTERS DEGREE

PIETER-DIRK UYS CASE STUDY EARNS STUDENT A MASTERS DEGREE

‘It is a great relief to get my Masters.  I feel liberated and at ease knowing I no longer have to try to meet academic deadlines or worry about editing mishaps or problems in my academic arguments.’

These were the words uttered by Mr Sheldon Troy Campbell who graduated with a Masters in English Studies.

Using the work of Pieter-Dirk Uys, Campbell’s study on performance autobiography-genre of writing and theatre where playwright-performers stage parts of their lives in creative ways, breaks new ground in what is a hitherto little researched area of both theatre studies and autobiography studies. 

‘I chose Pieter-Dirk Uys as a case study since my initial research uncovered autobiographical aspects of his performances that have not been the focus of academic investigation before,’ said Campbell.

Campbell concentrated on Uys’s 2001 revue Foreign Aids, which is a revue concerned with the spread of HIV and AIDS and how social and cultural ignorance contributes to the high rate of infection.  ‘Uys uses aspects of his life-story, including intimate details of his personal and sex life, in order to inspire people to break their silence about the relationship between the disease and their private lives,’ said Campbell.

After numerous failed attempts to contact Pieter-Dirk Uys, Campbell decided that his dissertation would not rely on his ability to consult with Uys and would therefore be based on Campbell’s own reading and interpretation of Uys’s revues and memoirs.

Campbell hopes that his analysis of performance autobiography in South Africa will be of service to local and international theatrical performers who seek to incorporate more aspects of their life stories into their stage productions.

Food security was at the core of research by two Masters graduates in the Community Development Programme at UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies.

The graduates, Ms Khanyisile Khanyile and Mr Mbekezeli Mkhize, conducted their research in poverty-stricken areas in rural KwaZulu-Natal - Khanyile at Nkandla in the subsection of eQhudeni, and Mkhize in the Ngcolosi community in the eMahlabathini area.  They were both supervised by Professor Pearl Sithole.

Khanyile’s study focused on the efficiency of the One Home One Garden campaign launched by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize in 2010 to fight food insecurity and poverty at a household level.  Khanyile discovered that although the campaign benefited some community members, generally it did not produce enough food for subsistence and did not generate sufficient income to take care of other needs.  

Khanyile said the most enjoyable part of her degree was learning about the different livelihood strategies people employed to better their lives.  ‘What I least enjoyed was seeing people living in severe deteriorating conditions with government being slow in coming to their rescue.’

Mkhize looked at community gardening as a poverty-alleviation strategy with an emphasis on institutional challenges.  He also compared community gardens and home gardens in terms of their economic and social benefits. 

His research showed that although the main aim of gardens in rural areas, irrespective of their type, was to alleviate poverty, selling the produce was not a top priority.  Rather, the focus was on subsistence and providing food to orphans and needy families.

In addition, Mkhize found that communally-owned gardens generated a lot of social benefits for those actively involved in the process such as the sharing of knowledge and the building of social networks and partnerships.&n
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

ZULEIKHA MAYAT AWARDED HONORARY PHD IN SOCIAL SCIENCE

ZULEIKHA MAYAT AWARDED HONORARY PHD IN SOCIAL SCIENCE

Graduates were entering a world suffering from a lack of job opportunities and should therefore think about creating their own employment and businesses.

This advice was given by Ms Zuleikha Mayat at a University of KwaZulu-Natal Graduation ceremony where she received an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences.

Mayat has been active on many fronts, as an independent journalist and writer and in connection with the activities of the Women’s Cultural Group in Durban.

 

Her 10 year correspondence with Ahmed Kathrada while he was imprisoned at Robben Island was published as Dear Ahmedbhai, Dear Zuleikhabehn (eds. Vahed & Waetjen, Jacana Press 2009).

 

Mayat said although graduates left universities equipped with intellectual and skill capital, they could well be faced with difficulties finding employment and should thus use their entrepreneurial skills to create job opportunities.

‘In past years it was not possible for persons of my dark skin to obtain entry into the Howard College campus, just as the Westville campus was closed to those of other colours.  The late Professors Leo and Hilda Kuper had to pull strings to get humanitarian Dr Fatima Meer into the university as a Lecturer. We rejoice today that the doors of all educational institutions are open to learners and educators of all colours,’ she said.

Mrs Virginia Gcabashe captivated the audience with her address titled: “Divine Gift, Divine Purpose”, at UKZN’s 2012 Humanities Graduation ceremony where an honorary Doctorate of Social Sciences was conferred on her.

Community service has been her main focus in life and she has devoted her time and efforts to building stronger and more cohesive communities, exposing her to women, youth, health, education and welfare issues. 

In her address, Gcabashe described her journey of service as having a ‘unique imprint’ on her childhood, family and faith.  She said her years of active service to the various communities ‘were due to a Divine Gift, which was intended for a Divine Purpose’.

She expressed the hope that her story, which resonated with those of many fellow South Africans, would encourage people, especially the youth, to work zealously on discovering their own gifts. 

‘Purpose is served through a committed and life-long exploration of our specific gifts and talents.  Directing our gifts and talents towards building stronger and more cohesive communities, we embark on a journey of self-discovery that brings greater fulfilment and affirmation to our individual identities,’ said Gcabashe.

Gcabashe’s journey started in the 1940s when she was a young child living in Vredefort in the then Orange Free State.  She described how, during one Christmas period, a severely beaten African man with tattered clothes and swollen feet approached their family home.

The man had been chopping wood for a white farmer and instead of being remunerated for his work, he was brutally assaulted and left for dead.   Hiding by day and seeking a place of safety by night, he had found the Gcabashe household which he knew to be that of a Wesleyan Methodist Minister.

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author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

NORWEGIAN GRADUATE HAILS SA … AND UKZN!

NORWEGIAN GRADUATE HAILS SA … AND UKZN!

Norwegian Masters graduate Ms Ingrid Osthus says being in South Africa and studying at UKZN for the past five years had provided her with heightened critical thinking and practical skills she would not have acquired had she stayed in her home country.

Osthus obtained her Masters in Social Work with a summa cum laude pass. ‘Many people are surprised at my choice of leaving Europe to study in Africa, but I am very satisfied. My experience at UKZN could not have been better and I have been challenged to develop more critical thinking skills and more practical skills needed to work in such a complex society as South Africa than I would in a Norwegian setting.

‘I do not regret my choice and would do the same if I turned back time and could make the choice again,’ she said. Osthus’s dissertation is titled: “Sexuality, Parenthood, and Identity: Relationships among Female and Male Youth living on the Streets of Durban CBD”.

It is about gendered relationships and explores how constructions of masculinities and femininities are played out on the street and how they impact the youth’s relationships.

‘A highlight of my research was when a pregnant girl successfully reintegrated with her family and I, week after week, witnessed how she grew happier and healthier. Her baby was born into a good home, instead of the street. When I visited them just hours after the birth, the grandmother asked me to name the baby. It was an honour that I will never forget.’

Osthus’s love for social work and the African continent will see her leaving for the Democratic Republic of Congo where she will work with women who have been traumatised by the war and to help in building a base for social work practice. 

Osthus’s Supervisor and UKZN Lecturer Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul described Osthus as an outstanding scholar and advised her to remember that as an individual she could make a difference, but as a collective by building alliances and bridges across differences she could make a world of difference.

She thanked her family, friends and supervisor for all their love and support during her studies. ‘My family was very supportive and cheered me on and they are all very proud. My friends in Norway have been supportive and faithful despite the geographical distance over many years,’ said Osthus.

‘My friends in South Africa have been crucial and I would not have made it without them. A big thank you - especially to my South African friends - for five great years in this country that I will never forget!’


author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

PHYSICALLY DISABLED STUDENTS OVERCOME ODDS AND GRADUATE

PHYSICALLY DISABLED STUDENTS OVERCOME ODDS AND GRADUATE

About 50 physically disabled students who graduated from the College of Humanities were all smiles as they proudly displayed the ultimate goal of their academic endeavours…a University of KwaZulu-Natal degree!

Ms Nokubonga Msiya, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. ‘I am overwhelmed; words cannot express how joyful and grateful I am.

‘All thanks go to God. I remember when I resumed school many people didn’t understand how I would cope. To them, I was aiming for the impossible. But I did it with the help of God,’ said Msiya.

Msiya was paralysed from the waist down at the age of sixteen after being shot. Tragedy struck again when her mother died, leaving her to take on the role of breadwinner for her family of six. The family relied heavily on Msiya’s disability grant before they were taken in by a church member who became their foster mother.

‘She is like a mother to us, she is the one who provided and took care of my siblings while I was still at school. She applied for foster care grants for my younger siblings. If it weren’t for her, life would’ve been a lot harder.’

Msiya managed to get a bursary to study social work and it covered all her academic costs including meal allowances.

‘This has not been an easy journey; there were times where I felt like giving up. One of the major challenges I encountered was moving from point A to point B independently. For almost two years before I got my motorised wheelchair, I had to rely on my friend to wheel me around campus to attend lectures. It was very difficult because we were not doing the same course but she always made sure I attended all my lectures.’

Msiya also pointed out that the UKZN lecturers and Disability Unit were always supportive and helpful.

Ms Melissa Coetzee, who has astigmatism in her right eye and is partially-sighted, graduated with a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Development degree. She said studying at UKZN had been amazing. ‘Being here has helped me grow as a person and has really made a positive impact on my life.’

She advised other physically disabled students to never give up, especially when they had the love and support of family and friends.

Both graduates thanked their support teams and were looking forward to bright futures.


author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

ZIMBABWEAN STUDENT ACHIEVES IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY

ZIMBABWEAN STUDENT ACHIEVES IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY

Xenophobia, obstacles in obtaining a visa, no accommodation, a lack of finance and a shortage of employment opportunities were just some of the difficulties faced by Mr Hloniphani Ndebele on his long road to obtaining a Masters Degree summa cum laude from UKZN.

Ndebele said the political and economic chaos in Zimbabwe forced him to head for the greener hills of KwaZulu-Natal in 2009.  He was also attracted by UKZN’s offer of free tuition for students wanting to enrol for a full-time Masters degree.  ‘This was like a dream come true for me considering the cost of doing a postgraduate degree in Zimbabwe,’ he said. 

However, arriving in South Africa on a visitor’s visa meant he could neither study nor look for a job so he applied for a temporary asylum permit which took six months to process. The permit allowed him to apply to study at UKZN.

Then accommodation became a major problem when the friend Ndebele had been staying with returned to Zimbabwe.  As a result, he was forced to live in Inanda at a time when there were xenophobic attacks in the area. Ndebele said he had no choice but to put his fears aside and face up to the reality of his difficult situation.

‘At first I felt so insecure but with time I integrated into the community and they began to accommodate me as one of their own,’ said Ndebele.  He added that his one saving grace was his ability to converse fluently in isiZulu.

But this was not the end of his struggles.  Ndebele was forced to put his academic aspirations aside and find work in order to survive and pay for his studies. He entered the construction industry as this was his only employment option. ‘I had to reactivate my bricklaying skills which I acquired at high school,’ said Ndebele.

In February 2010 he finally began his Masters degree.  ‘Although it seemed like the dawn of a beautiful morning, it was not like that at all!’  He still had to find bus fare to get to the University and pay for all his living expenses. In addition, his friends were not supportive. ‘But I knew exact
author email : crookesv@ukzn.ac.za

78 YEAR OLD GRADUATES WITH MASTERS IN ENGLISH

78 YEAR OLD GRADUATES WITH MASTERS IN ENGLISH

The oldest graduate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal this year is 78-year-old Ms Gillian van der Heijden who attained a Masters Degree in English.

Her thirst for knowledge seems unquenchable as she is now pursuing an honours degree at the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS).

Asked if her age was a hindering factor in her studies, van der Heijden boisterously said: ‘The challenge was to beat the digital divide and overcome new technology. But if England’s Queen Elizabeth can still mount her horse - and she does - then obviously we old girls can do it if we try!’

Van der Heijden’s research topic titled: Kendrew Lascelles: Selected Works a Biographical Thematic and Stylistic Introduction”, highlights the argument that Africa is a real and symbolic location and this, according to Van der Heijden, is evident in Lascelles’s ‘struggle theatre’ plays that were presented in the United States.

She pointed out that Lascelles had left South Africa in the 1960s with a revue show called Wait a Minim! which she believed was an innovative masterpiece of non-written anti-Apartheid theatrical ridicule, which depended entirely on music, culture, song and dance.

‘This revue not only left South Africans smiling against the system, but also made the international world aware of South Africa’s apartheid predicament. This topic unearths much that concerns the human heart and soul, people’s social circumstances and fight for liberation of thought, and life and space.

Van der Heijden didn
author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

HOUSE-MATES GRADUATE TOGETHER WITH GROUND-BREAKING RESEARCH

HOUSE-MATES GRADUATE TOGETHER WITH GROUND-BREAKING RESEARCH

Masters graduates in Development Studies, Mr Byron Louw and Mr John Filitz have each completed an individual thesis on interesting topics relevant to current affairs issues in South Africa.

Louw graduated summa cum laude and Filitz cum laude which resulted in their families cheering and applauding at the awards ceremony.

The graduates lived and studied together during their postgraduate years and often discussed research challenges and outcomes with each other.

‘A definite highlight was the late night pearls of wisdom that I could share with John. It was so wonderful to be able to express the excitement of putting pieces together and then having the added privilege of sharing that with someone who was in the same boat,’ said Louw.

He chose to focus his study on the non-payment of school fees at South African public schools which charge fees. His study investigated the relationship between parents and schools as being a consumer-firm relationship.

‘I think that my research will benefit society only if the right people take note of it. There are practical recommendations which could improve the quality of the public education system - in the optimal situation this research could shift the entire way policy makers and education planners think and make decisions.

‘The research informs a previously completely unexplained and perplexing phenomenon from an entirely different way of thinking,’ said Louw.

author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

OVERCOMING LIFE'S CHALLENGES AND SOCIETY'S PREJUDICES

OVERCOMING LIFE'S CHALLENGES AND SOCIETY'S PREJUDICES

Mr Mnqobi Njoko, who graduated from UKZN with an Honours degree in Community Development, has proved he has what it takes to deal with life’s knocks.

When Njoko started his degree in 2011, he was struggling to make his way in the world.  He had no permanent accommodation and very little money to buy food, let alone pay for his studies.  To make matters worse, his family did not support his decision to further his education as they had earmarked him as the bread winner. 

‘They felt they had taken me far enough; it was time to grow up, find a job and start supporting my family.  I knew this is what mom expected of me but I had a different plan and I had to - probably for the first time in my life – go against my family’s wishes.’ 

Determined not to give up his dream of pursuing his studies, Njoko explored every avenue.  He managed to secure funding from the National Research Foundation as well as a room at one of the University’s residences.  Also, thanks to one of his lecturers, he found a job as a receptionist at a yoga studio and started to tutor in the community development programme. 

While studying, Njoko decided to ‘come out’ as being gay even though his friends already knew. This was a difficult decision because he didn’t want to be seen as different and didn’t like the idea of people talking about him. However, Njoko says: ‘My sexuality is just a part of who I am, not what defines me.’

Njoko explained that one of the things that led to his disclosure was an Honours project that focused on being gay at UKZN.  Hearing the stories of other gay students reassured him and made him feel part of a community. He said his lecturers and peers provided him with the necessary support ‘to be gay and proud’. He expressed the hope that other gay people would take courage from his story. 

Two Durban medical practitioners have graduated with PhD's in Education!

Dr Laura Campbell and Dentist Dr Pratima Singh each have their own particular reasons for following the education route.

Campbell pointed out that a certain situation had made her an interdisciplinary student in her pursuit of a PhD in Education.  ‘I was employed in 2010 by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Princess Diana of Wales Palliative Care Initiative to develop training materials for palliative care for home-based care workers.  I quickly realised that although I knew what content to include I did not know how to deliver the course or how to evaluate it,’ she said.

The need to consider curriculum theory when developing a course became apparent during Campbell’s work as a Senior Researcher in the HSRC and drove her to base her PhD research on this very issue.

Singh said she was involved in the education and training of health science students for more than 20 years. Most academics in health science faculties had little training in educational principles and practice, resulting in many of them teaching as they were taught.

‘In many instances, newer innovative teaching pedagogies are overlooked, and academics were often resistant to change. I therefore felt that if my study on curriculum could contribute to improving the education and training of health professionals, it was necessary to study through an Education Faculty, so that my recommendations would be based on sound educational principles,’ she said.

Both graduates thanked their families, supervisors and friends for their on-going support and guidance during their studies.

They were accompanied by their proud families and hoped that their research would make a positive impact on society.


author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

ZAMBIAN RESEARCHER EARNS HIS PHD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HIS CHOICE!

ZAMBIAN RESEARCHER EARNS HIS PHD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HIS CHOICE!

Zambian researcher Mr Given Mutinta says he chose UKZN to complete his doctorate because he saw it as an African university that is academically excellent, innovative in research and critically engaged with society.

UKZN was also, he said, demographically representative and committed in dealing with problems affecting society.

Mutinta of the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) is passionate about communication for public health.

His PhD thesis focused on the topic: “Investigating students’ sexual risk behaviour, risk and protective factors and their responses to the Scrutinise Campus Campaign at Universities in Kwazulu-Natal”.

Mutinta has been living and studying in South Africa for almost five years and has previously worked as a research advisor for honours and masters students at the CCMS. He is now a research fellow in public health and HIV and AIDS related issues at the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD).

His PhD study found that research efforts aimed at students’ sexual risk behaviour had so far been hampered by the adoption of models and perspectives that were narrow and did not adequately capture the complexity associated with students’ sexual experiences.

Mutinta’s study concludes that students’ behaviour is influenced by interrelated factors from the multisystemic domains: biological, social/environmental, behavioural and personality factors that either instigate or buffer against sexual risk behaviour.

author email : mungroo@ukzn.ac.za

MASTERS STUDENTS FOLLOW RESEARCH URGINGS OF THEIR SUPERVISOR

MASTERS STUDENTS FOLLOW RESEARCH URGINGS OF THEIR SUPERVISOR

Three Masters students were persuaded by their supervisor to conduct a joint empirical study of the labour market, labour process and recruitment and retention practices for medical laboratory specialists in KwaZulu-Natal.

Whilst much work has been done on clinical doctors in South Africa, the work on ‘non-patient facing specialists’ is limited to non-existent in South Africa and Africa. The students worked as a team producing three separate empirical projects on the topic.

The students are Mr Nadeem Cassim, Miss Suveera Singh and Miss Dheshni Marimuthu and their Supervisor is Dr Shaun Ruggunan.

The three theses are believed to be among the first qualitative projects in the social sciences to examine the work of medical specialists such as histopathologists, virologists, chemical pathologists and haematologists.

Despite receiving funding from the Department of Science and Technology, the students still had to overcome challenges pertaining to their research. ‘The predominant challenge was the difficulty in getting access to participants because there are relatively so few of them,’ said Cassim.

He said it was special to be part of a team in which members were always motivated and supported by each other, even in the face of time constraints and the lack of participation from key role players in the pathology/laboratory services in South Africa.

Treating his research like a full-time job was the key to success for UKZN PhD in Development Studies graduate Mr Michael Rogan.

Rogan says his ability to balance his family relationships while still working and studying at the same time was vital. ‘I treated my thesis as a full-time job. In doing so, I attempted to keep regular work hours and reserve evenings and weekends for other pursuits.’

He was overjoyed to have finally achieved his postgraduate degree after working tirelessly during his three-year research which explored whether gender differences in income poverty widened in the post-apartheid period.

Having found that they did, he examined some of the demographic, labour market and social policy changes that might explain this.

‘Social research has been a strong interest for some time and I knew that I would need a PhD to make research a career. I was fortunate in that I had a chance to engage with my Supervisor Professor Dori Posel over a period of time before registering.

‘She helped me think of a topic that would make a good study and be interesting to me. I have had a longstanding interest in poverty and gender and the topic that I chose was a good fit.’

Rogan faced many challenges during his research but with continued support from his supervisor, colleagues, friends and family, he was able to see his study through.

Graduation was the biggest event of the year for three UKZN Masters in Population Studies students.

The trio - Ms Catherine Okumu, Mr Blessing Msomi and Ms Khethokuhle Nkosi - were excited and gushed about their research and plans for the future.

‘It’s a dream come true for me and now I can proudly look for a better paying job to support myself and my family. I now have a passport to the greener pastures in life,’ said Msomi.

His research explored a rather taboo topic of gender-based violence against men in Clermont. ‘When I introduced myself and what I’d be researching, most guys laughed and asked whether I was serious in actually exploring this topic. But there were some instances where men cried when talking about the abuse,’ said Msomi.

His colleague, Okumu, who hails from Kenya, suffered a brief illness which hospitalised her during her studies.

‘When I recovered I had to catch up fast. I sacrificed and spent most of my weekends focusing on my work. I had to cut back on socialising. Luckily my friends were understanding and offered me all the support I needed. I was motivated to complete my studies despite my setback and I pushed myself forward. I never gave up,’ she said.

Okumu’s research was on demographic and socioeconomic determinants of female migration in rural KwaZulu-Natal. She had to stay at the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies for seven months to learn to use their datasets for her thesis. But it proved worthwhile as she passed cum laude.

Losing her father, giving birth to a son and working full-time to support her family - Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) graduate Ms René Smith truly deserves her PhD!

‘As an ambitious academic I wanted to have my PhD well before I turned 30. The setbacks I suffered meant the goal posts kept shifting - yet I was still expected to deliver,’ said Smith. ‘This was a huge life lesson for me. As a new mother and the eldest child in my family, I knew that I had to take care of my other responsibilities as well as conduct and write up my research.

‘In the end, I was able to complete my studies because I prioritised me and what matters to me. Finding the balance is never easy, but necessary. The emotional roller-coaster I endured throughout this labour of love makes graduating all the more rewarding,’ she said.

Her research focused on youth media consumption and lifestyles where she conducted a comparative audience study of media consumption practices among black youths in a peri-urban town (Alice) in the Eastern Cape and in a cosmopolitan city (Durban) in KwaZulu-Natal.

The research is an historical study, providing a snapshot of youth media consumption practices at a particular moment in time.  What sparked her interest in pursuing a PhD? ‘I was very interested in taking forward my Masters research. At the time there was a paucity of research on black popular culture and identity.

‘I was navigating unchartered territory and asking difficult questions.  After graduating cum laude I was determined to be an expert in my area of research. That was the initial impetus. Of course, what I started researching at Doctoral level and what I ended up with is very different,’ said Smith. 

‘I’m over the moon.  There are no words to describe the feeling I have,’ said Ms Reena Ramsaru after receiving her Masters degree in Town and Regional Planning. Her dream of becoming a professional planner now fast becoming a reality, Ramsaru says it all began when – despite being “just married” - her husband persuaded her to enrol for her Masters programme.

‘He has always supported me throughout the course of my studies, even delaying our honeymoon for four months so that I could attend lectures straight after our wedding.’ Ramsaru’s research was unique in the sense that it was inspired by both natural disasters and astronomical tides and was the result of her being environmentally conscious.

‘It baffles me that after the tsunami disaster in South East Asia in 2004 and events like the highest astronomical tides on the KZN coastline in 2006/7, planners still allow for development along coastlines,’ she said.

Her research dealt with the management and mismanagement of the Umhlanga coastline, making use of examples of destruction along the world’s coastlines, especially in Asia. Her study’s goal was to understand and decipher the cause of the ribbon development along the Umhlanga coastline.

‘Hopefully this research will make planners and developers realise the need to protect our coastlines in a sustainable manner, such that we have minimal damage in the case of an oceanic disturbance.’

She also indicated that just like many other researchers, she too had faced challenges with her study such as trying to find an expert in her field of research and time constraints.

Newly-weds Mohamed and Farzana Alli Vawda graduated together at UKZN with Masters in Population Studies degrees.

The couple were ecstatic to have finally received their postgraduate degrees after their recent marriage. ‘It really is a huge achievement for us both as we dedicated a lot of time and effort towards completing our theses,’ said Mrs Vawda.

The couple met as first year students at UKZN through mutual friends and thereafter studied together.

Their blossoming relationship spanned their entire time at university and led to their wedding in November last year. ‘Although we’ve been married for just four months, it has strengthened us and helped us grow as people. And being able to study with your spouse is a wonderful feeling because you’re able to share the same emotions with your partner, said Mrs Vawda.

Her thesis was based on sexual and reproductive health. ‘I focused on health services for the youth and the extent to which these services are able to address the health needs of young people.’

‘One of the main challenges we faced was conducting research and doing coursework at the same time. This can be very time consuming and requires a lot of dedication,’ said Mrs Vawda.

 

She hopes the research will benefit society by encouraging the country’s health policy to include young people in the design of comprehensive services. ‘This will help reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy and HIV among the youth who are most vulnerable to poor health outcomes.’

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