DRC Refugee Awarded Masters Degree From UKZN
Mr Andre Mpiana, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has graduated with his Masters degree in Food Security from the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES).
Mpiana’s thesis was on the topical issue of determining effective methods of assessing household food security, especially in situations such as those in South Africa where malnutrition is prevalent.
He used anthropometric measures of infants to determine the food security status of a household and a Household Food Insecurity Access Scale as a basis for assessing the accuracy of the measurements.
Mpiana hoped his research would contribute to the improvement of food security in households.
Mpiana’s work is exceptional not only for its importance in creating useful assessment guidelines for determining the food security status of households, but also because of the tremendous challenges overcome by Mpiana and his family in the pursuit of his studies.
Mpiana is a refugee from the eastern DRC who has been living in South Africa since 2009. He registered to study at the University in order to escape the political upheaval in the DRC and to further his studies.
He studied to Honours level at the Institut Supérieur des Techniques Médicales in the DRC where he focused on Management and Administration. Mpiana then worked as a hospital administrator in his home country until the unrest and fear of marauding armed rebels escalated to a point which forced many citizens of the eastern DRC to flee.
Mpiana, together with his wife and six of his seven children, left the DRC as soon as they were able, taking nothing with them. They were separated from their 16-year-old daughter but were reunited with her later in South Africa.
Mpiana, who was unable to speak English when he arrived in South Africa, overcame the language barrier and managed to complete his Masters thesis in what is his third language.
Speaking of Mpiana’s approach to the language barrier, his supervisor, Dr Maxwell Mudhara, said, ‘He maintained a positive attitude as he was always willing to exert himself, under obviously challenging personal circumstances. His efforts, supported by the College bursary, resulted in a good quality product from his research.
After more than four years in the country, Mpiana and his family have still not been granted refugee status, making it impossible for him to get formal work in order to support his family, who live together in a one-roomed shed on a property belonging to their church. His eldest daughter does informal hairdressing salon work on the weekends to contribute to their livelihood and the school fees of the younger children, while his wife sells sweets to university students near the campus.
‘The Mpianas are an incredible family in terms of their tenacity, sticking together, their religious faith and their humour that never abates even in the most awful times,’ said Ms Morag Peden of the University’s School of Education and Development.
Mpiana will continue with his studies and is planning to pursue a PhD in Food Security in which he will research children’s rights to food.
- Christine Cuénod