Student Overcomes Obstacles to Graduate Cum Laude
Despite encountering a series of major setbacks which threatened his chances of graduating, Mr Kamban Hirasen remained focussed and earned his Masters in Population Studies cum laude.
Hirasen is now a Research Associate at the Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE²RO), a division of the WITS Health Consortium.
‘From an early age, I wanted to pursue academic avenues. Firstly, a solid education provides a solid foundation in life and secondly, the personal growth and development that higher education facilitates is unmatched,’ he said.
‘During my Masters I suffered many personal setbacks. The ill health of my father and the tragic passing of my uncle were major blows to my family and I. Additionally, we had a house break-in and my laptop with all my dissertation files was stolen.
‘I had backed up my files on my flash, which was on the laptop. The gods must have been looking out for me, because the burglars dropped the flash when they took the laptop. I guess it all worked out in the end and I can laugh about it now.’
His research, titled: “Diversity & Disease: The Demographic and Socio-Economic Determinants of Chronic Diseases in South Africa”, focused on risk factors associated with diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease among South African adults.
Some of his research findings revealed that low levels of education were shown to increase disease prevalence and risk. Additionally, economically inactive adults presented the highest prevalence and risk for all chronic diseases. Both skilled and unskilled occupations as well as low and high income earners were found to be at increased risk.
‘Health care programmes which specifically target high risk groups should be put in place to potentially decrease levels of chronic disease. More importantly however, broader initiatives promoting socio-economic equality may be a long term solution not only to high levels of chronic diseases, but a host of health problems commonly identified in the country.’
To aid his research, Hirasen was awarded the NRF Scarce Skills Scholarship in Demography in 2012, a national award in the field of Demography which is considered a scarce skill in South Africa. He also received two allocations of funding from his Masters supervisor, Professor Pranitha Maharaj, and the School of Development Studies.
Hirasen thanked his family and friends for providing vital support to him during his studies.
He hopes to gain more valuable work experience over the next two years and to start work on a PhD in Demography or a business/managerial degree such as an MBA.
* The financial assistance of the National Research Foundation (NRF) towards this research is hereby acknowledged. Opinions expressed and conclusions arrived at are those of the author and are not necessarily attributable to the NRF.