Challenges Faced by English Second Language Students in Written Business Communication Investigated

Challenges Faced by English Second Language Students in Written Business Communication Investigated
PhD in Linguistics graduate, Dr Bulelwa Nyangiwe.

Use of English Challenges Faced by isiZulu-speaking Students in the Business Context in South Africa was the focus of research by a doctoral candidate.

Dr Bulelwa Nyangiwe, a lecturer at Mangosuthu University of Technology in Durban, graduated with her PhD in Linguistics from UKZN. 

Her study investigated the challenges isiZulu-speaking students faced with various strategies and techniques of written business correspondence in English in South Africa. 

In her study, Nyangiwe supports the decolonisation of tertiary teaching and transformation and the promotion of African languages. The work also explores how isiZulu politeness strategies in speech can assist in developing practical business writing skills in the business context in English. 

‘In a multilingual country, like South Africa, where the use of English is dominant in all spheres of life, including education, there is a need to address this challenge by incorporating the use of African indigenous languages, which are also recognised as official languages,’ she said. 

The findings attest to the students’ competence and pragmatic knowledge in both English and isiZulu. Yet, they struggle with performing crucial language functions (transactional and interactional) in English. The resulting recommendations demonstrate how pragmatic competence in the first language may be acknowledged and used to improve business correspondence and intercultural communication. 

Nyangiwe believes her research will benefit society and contribute to the field of English Language Teaching in the South African context, since it compares the use of speech acts in two South African languages. 

‘Hopefully, this research will also be useful in creating awareness for the future planning of English second language teaching methods in South Africa and internationally. It is also envisaged that the research findings may lead to critical reflections on the relationships between English and isiZulu politeness constructions and strategies in business communication. 

She advised other students ‘to plan, manage time effectively, and have a good working relationship with your supervisor following their guidance and advice throughout. Working consistently and staying focused are the key aspects in completing a PhD.’ 

Nyangiwe thanked her family, friends and supervisor Professor Heike Tappe for their support. 

She is keen on supervising students in their research projects and publishing articles on her research. She is also planning to form a collaboration as a community project with business organisations to assist English second language employees who experience challenges in written business communication. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph:  Supplied


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Doctoral Study Examines Economic Conditions in Niger Delta Region

Doctoral Study Examines Economic Conditions in Niger Delta Region
Dr Henry Irabor whose research offers solutions to the long-standing conflict in the Delta.

Conflict Over the Equitable Distribution of Oil Resources and the Sustainability of Livelihoods in the Niger Delta Region was the focus of research which earned Dr Henry Irabor a PhD in International Relations. 

Said Irabor: ‘Claims of exploitation, marginalisation, and oppression by the government and the multi-national oil companies operating in the region, have caused conflict between militants and the Nigerian security forces.’ 

International Law and the Normative System of International Organisations are a panacea for the conflict,’ explained Irabor, who contends that the Nigerian legal system and the judiciary are highly corrupt. ‘No meaningful justice can result from litigation by the Niger Delta people if they do not go beyond the Nigerian domestic legal framework. 

‘The human rights of the people of the Niger Delta must be respected by the federal government and multinational oil companies while the right to the control of the natural resource by the Niger Delta people for the development of their physical, environmental and mental wellbeing must be respected,’ he argued. 

The Nigerian government is now taking note of Irabor’s research which offers solutions to the long-standing conflict in the Delta. 

He had this advice for research colleagues: ‘Focus on the bigger goal - endurance and selflessness should be the foundation of the pursuit.’ 

Irabor thanked his family, friends and supervisor Dr Mabuyi Gumede for their support and guidance. 

He now plans to ‘join the world of academia doing research that will better the lives of society as one global community and I will start publishing parts of my dissertation with my supervisor.’   

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Four Teachers from Three Diverse Countries Feature in Doctoral Research

Four Teachers from Three Diverse Countries Feature in Doctoral Research
Dr Simita Sharan graduated with a PhD degree in Education.

Dr Simita Sharan of New Delhi focussed her doctoral studies on four teachers from three culturally, socially, and racially different countries during her journey to achieve her PhD degree in Education. 

The countries were Sharan’s homeland, India, and the United States and Côte d’Ivoire and the research involved exploring the phenomenon of exceptionality as a possibility for doing teacher’s work as intellectuals. 

Married to a diplomat, Sharan often travelled with her husband to different countries where he was employed as a senior Indian foreign service officer. 

She worked as a teacher in several countries interacting with colleagues in a variety of very different learning settings. During these experiences she realised that even though the teachers encouraged new thinking and learning among their students, most of them adopted formulaic positions in teaching their respective subjects. 

‘Growing up in India and obtaining my degrees there as well as in the USA, I vividly remember teachers who influenced my thinking and aspirations as an Indian woman and a teacher,’ said Sharan. ‘They encouraged me to imagine possibilities beyond the norms and practices prescribing what it means to a woman. I learned from them the significant responsibility teachers exercise in students’ lives.’ 

Sharan recognised that such individuals chose to go beyond the instrumentalist job of teaching their subjects, to also inspiring them to think in alternate ways. She wondered why these teachers chose to transcend the traditional, comfortable, and established norms and practices. 

‘This curiosity inspired my doctoral study on “exceptional teachers”. I sought to understand who these teachers are and the sources of the formation for their alternate ways of thinking and practising. I was also encouraged by how and why they used their teacher’s position in ways that made them exceptional,’ said Sharan. 

Due to the global nature of the study, Sharan travelled between three different countries. ‘It was a time-consuming and financially demanding endeavour. I also needed to educate myself about the culture of these particular countries in order to develop a rapport with the participant teachers and to understand their stories in more unbiased, open, logical, and critical ways.’ 

As a women researcher in a patriarchal society, she had to keep compromising on the time spent on this study. ‘Because of my position as the wife of an Indian diplomat, I was obliged to perform certain duties and tasks for my country. I had always been busy in entertaining a constant flow of visitors from around the world. As a mother, I was fully involved in the lives of my daughters who were studying in the USA. One of them also got married which is a very big event in India. This kept me on my toes for more than six months.’ 

Sharan’s study revealed that every ordinary teacher around the world had the potential to become an intellectual and exceptional teacher and experience teaching as intellectual work if he/she cared for an ethically embodied understanding of self and the students.  

She argues that pre-service and in-service teachers should be encouraged to focus on their selves as the site for transformation from their traditional and orthodox beliefs and values for them and their students’ intellectual, ethical, and emotional well-being. 

‘When teachers are ethically responsible and responsive individuals, they can develop perspectives and make choices in their everyday lives enabling them to transgress the traditional boundaries of being professional and to actively practise teachers’ work in “exceptional” ways for their care for their students,’ said Sharan. 

Despite the patriarchal and closed mind approaches of many people who scoffed at her attempt of studying in her 40s and 50s, she had a very close and supportive group of friends, family and her supervisor Professor Daisy Pillay who encouraged her. 

Offering advice to other researchers, Sharan said: ‘Perseverance is the key to success. There will be moments of sheer frustration when you doubt your own abilities and choices. But do not lose hope and faith. Dedicate yourself to your study completely and you will certainly reach your goal.’ 

Her daughter Antara said, ‘Finally, you focused on yourself and because of your hard work and dedication, we are so proud to call you Dr Simita Sharan! I am not surprised at all of your achievements because you always complete what you start. This is a perfect example that it’s never too late to start something new in your life.’ 

Her other daughter Arushi added, ‘Throughout her PhD journey, she has elegantly balanced her roles as a mother, wife, sister, friend, aunt and so much more, while burning the midnight oil to deep dive into her research. Despite the consistent changes that come with being a diplomat’s wife, she always perseveres and adapts. She is Dr Simita Sharan, my breath-taking mother! Congrats on achieving your doctoral degree, Mommy!’ 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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“Learning from Learners” in Self-Study Research Results in PhD

“Learning from Learners” in Self-Study Research Results in PhD
An elated Dr Siphiwe Madondo who is a primary school teacher.

A doctoral degree in Education was the prize at the end of self-study research by Dr Siphiwe Madondo in which he used children’s popular culture to elicit English creative writing and keep learners motivated and inspired in a Grade 6 class. 

The thesis, supervised by Professor Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan, was presented in an imaginative manner using artefacts, photographs, drawings, collages, and poetry. The study recognised the significance of children’s perspectives and expertise, situating them as valued partners in educational research and practice. 

Madondo is a Zulu-speaking teacher in a primary school in a semi-rural area, serving an isiZulu-speaking community. The school uses English as a medium of instruction, and it is taught as a First Additional Language. With this in mind, he wanted to explore children’s popular culture as a resource for teaching and learning English creative writing. 

A sociocultural theoretical perspective helped Madondo understand teaching and learning as culturally and socially constructed. His methodological approach was self-study of practice. 

‘I was the primary research participant, and the other participants were the learners in my class. I worked closely with three critical friends (fellow teachers and doctoral students). My first research question was: What can I learn about children’s popular culture and creative writing from my childhood memories?’ said Madondo. ‘In response, I recalled my past experiences of children’s popular culture learning from them as a resource for teaching creative writing. I also explored my own past experiences relevant to the teaching and learning of creative writing. I recalled and narrated my fun experiences as well as memorable educative experiences using self-study methods such as memory drawing and artefact retrieval.’  

His second question was: What can I learn through exploring children’s popular culture as a resource for teaching and learning English creative writing in an IsiZulu-speaking Grade 6 Class? Here, Madondo conducted English, Social Science and Technology lessons that integrated children’s popular culture content as a resource for teaching and learning creative writing. 

He provided a detailed description of what transpired during the teaching and learning with examples of classwork produced by learners while employing collage and poetry as arts-based methods to analyse and reflect deeply in searching for meaningful answers. 

‘This study enabled me to learn from my learners as they taught me about what was in their hearts. I experienced how popular culture content and forms can elicit creative writing and keep children motivated and inspired.  Self-study encouraged and empowered me to improve the way I teach,’ said Madondo.  

He believes his ‘study has recognised the significance of children’s perspectives and expertise and considered them as valued partners in educational research and practice.’ 

Madondo thanked his family, friends and supervisor for their support. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph:  Supplied


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Mathematical Modelling Approaches in Antenna Theory and Design - Focus of PhD Research

Mathematical Modelling Approaches in Antenna Theory and Design - Focus of PhD Research
Doctoral degree for Dr George Fasinu.Research into Engineering academics and students teaching and learning Mathematical modelling approaches in antenna theory and design through an interdisciplinary study in Science and Engineering Education, resulted in Dr George Fasinu being awarded a PhD in Education.

The study also looked at how teachers and students model their mathematical concepts into their teaching and learning of prerequisite Mathematics and antenna theory and design course.

His supervisors were Professor Nadaraj Govender of the School of Education and Dr Pradeep Kumar of the School of Engineering.

Fasinu discovered that some engineering devices were being described using mathematical ideas but the strategies of modelling application concepts then became problematic.

His research also revealed that Electronics Engineering academics sometimes adopted certain strategies when teaching antenna theory and design course with prerequisite mathematical courses included. These include: analysis of an antenna using antenna analytical equation, and analysis of the electric and magnetic field.

The study further confirmed that electronics engineering students and academics do interact during teaching and learning.

He says the study contributes to a novel and modified practical model of teaching and learning antenna theory and design, referred to as the Practical Pedagogic Mathematical Model for Teaching Antenna Theory and Design (PPMM-ATD).

Said Fasinu: I experienced economic hardship as a full-time student and COVID-19 caused further obstacles but my supervisors came to my aid. Studying as an international student demanded sacrifices and was full of challenges such as visa problems, travel costs, and medical aid bills but I made it through.

He thanked his wife, daughter and supervisors for their sustained support throughout the programme.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Investigating Perceptions on Using Social Media for Activism

Investigating Perceptions on Using Social Media for Activism
Media and Communications graduate, Ms Francisca Nyaradzo Nhongonhema.

What online audiences and offline communities think about the use of social media as a platform for activism was the focus of research done by Ms Francisca Nyaradzo Nhongonhema for her Master’s degree in Media and Communication. 

Nhongonhema, who studied through the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS), faced hardship and challenges on her journey to being awarded the degree. ‘When l began my studies in 2019, my father had just been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer, and I had just started a full-time job in Zimbabwe as a radio producer/presenter - my lifelong dream - but l had also been accepted to study at UKZN,’ she said. ‘So, I had to sacrifice something - l resigned from my job to pursue my masters as l had funding through the Cannon Collins scholarship.’ 

She also struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic but continued with her studies. ‘In May 2020, my partner and l decided to get married and later that year l discovered l was pregnant and I was often ill,’ she said. ‘Studying in my situation became difficult. 

‘Then my partner, who had previously been based in Europe, was asked to return overseas so that meant moving - a thousand miles away from home and my degree still incomplete,’ said Nhongonhema. 

Her father died and she struggled to come to terms with it. ‘I was a thousand miles away, eight months’ pregnant, and borders closed because of COVID-19 which meant no travelling back home for my father’s funeral. I watched it on a WhatsApp video call. 

‘I eventually went into labour - while my husband was out of the country - and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.’ 

She later returned to her studies at UKZN assisted by her supervisor Professor Lauren Dyll who she describes as very patient and encouraging. She also managed to get back home to see her father’s resting place and be with family once again - ‘it was like a breath of fresh air.’ 

Nhongonhema submitted her dissertation and was overjoyed when she received news she had passed. She dedicated her degree to her late father. 

In her research, she used Doubt Chimonyo’s Facebook campaign against child sex work in the high-density community of Epworth in Zimbabwe. ‘Zimbabwean activism is migrating from physical activism to new media platforms,’ she said. ‘There are also obstacles in the way of Zimbabwean people using social media, including the digital divide and retrogressive laws stifling social media use.' 

Nhongonhema believes her study contributes to the understanding of the perception of social media activism within the complex specificities of a high-density community within Zimbabwe. 

She says her findings reveal ‘that political campaigns have more potential to create resonance offline unlike social campaigns, such as the campaign against child sex work. Considering that the campaign set out to involve the Epworth adult community in finding solutions to curb child sex work in the area, the choice of an online platform is questionable as it effectively excluded the Epworth audience thereby rendering the campaign unsuccessful.’ 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Research Explores Teachers’ Views of Learner Assessment Practices

Research Explores Teachers’ Views of Learner Assessment Practices
Ms Gugu Macholo graduated with a Master’s in Education.

Assessment practices of teachers were examined by Ms Gugu Macholo in a study which culminated in her being awarded a Master’s degree in Education. Macholo explored teachers’ views of their assessment practices as well as their understanding of fairness, success, and level of difficulty in designing assessments.

Urban schools in the Umlazi district (Maphundu circuit) were the focus of the study. 

According to Macholo, assessment remains a critical issue in teaching and learning. ‘It is one of the important tools used by education practitioners to monitor the progress of learners as well as to predict, guide and evaluate learning. ‘Reliability, fairness, the degree of difficulty, and success are principles of effective assessment.’ 

She noted that ‘recent and past studies had revealed assessment approaches that lead to effective learning. The challenge of assessment lies within these principles and approaches. However, most teachers find it difficult to consider principles when they design assessment activities.’ 

The results showed teachers viewed their assessment practices as effective. However, the challenge of over-crowding and a lack of proper in-service training was problematic in executing fair assessment practices. 

The study revealed that teachers found assessment to be a continuously challenging component in education, concluding that any change in assessment practice should be based on teachers’ empirical knowledge. 

Macholo believes her research will encourage educational authorities to devise possible strategies of assessment. ‘Curriculum planners and curriculum implementers are not working together with post-level one educator’s qualifications being undermined,’ she said. ‘Some hold master’s degrees but salaries are not aligned with their qualification.’ 

She thanked her family, friends and supervisor Dr Lokesh Maharajh for their support. Macholo plans to pursue her PhD and write journal articles.  

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Rhodes University Lecturer Awarded Doctorate from UKZN

Rhodes University Lecturer Awarded Doctorate from UKZN
A PhD in Education for Rhodes University lecturer, Dr Kavish Jawahar.

Research into the alignment of school chemistry curriculum literacy demands between the syllabus, the textbook and exemplar examination in terms of abstraction earned a Rhodes University lecturer, Dr Kavish Jawahar a PhD in Education from UKZN. 

Supervised by Professor Carol Bertram and Dr Doras Sibanda, Jawahar used a case study of the South African Grade 10 Chemistry curriculum in his work. 

‘South Africa experiences significant challenges in the recruitment and retention of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students in Higher Education, with major implications for socioeconomic development,’ said Jawahar. ‘In the country’s school curriculum, it is Grade 10 which marks the beginning of a learner’s potential STEM career trajectory. A better understanding of Grade 10 literacy challenges and associated curriculum alignment in the key STEM field of chemistry is needed for enabling the forms of epistemological access that are critical for the empowerment of Chemistry students.’ 

Jawahar noted that Chemistry as an academic discipline, was sustained by many individuals with shared ways of knowing facilitated by a system of semiotic resources such as visuals and text, referred to as discourse. He argues that despite chemistry playing an important role in our lives and in the school curriculum, the abstract nature of chemistry discourse poses challenges to students. 

‘The visuals and text of chemistry discourse contribute to chemistry curriculum demands imposed on students,’ he said.  ‘While there is clear justification for promoting literacy practices in classrooms, the reading involved in school science has received less attention and recommendations from literature include defining discipline-specific curriculum literacies and identifying implicit literacy practices. Such recommendations are further supported by the broader call made by sociologists of education for overcoming knowledge blindness in education,’ said Jawahar. 

His findings reveal an overall high level of alignment for visual chemistry curriculum literacy demands, and for textual chemistry curriculum literacy demands at the lower levels of abstraction. 

Jawahar found that visual literacy demands were higher than textual literacy demands, due to emphasis on visuals at the highest level of abstraction while the curriculum documents displayed a more even distribution of focal lexical items across levels of textual abstraction. 

Jawahar argues that ‘while exploring the alignment of visual and textual chemistry curriculum literacy demands between different curriculum documents is useful, it is equally important to consider how evenly the visual and textual items are distributed across the Semantic Gravity (SG) continuum as this has cognitive and affective implications for academic achievement and life chances of chemistry learners.’ 

He thanked his family, friends and supervisors for their support during his PhD journey. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Educational Leadership System Explored in Master’s Research

Educational Leadership System Explored in Master’s Research
Mrs Sebenzile Basi graduated with a Master’s degree in Education.

Educational Leadership Dynamics in a Deprived Rural Setting were explored in research which earned Mrs Sebenzile Basi a Master’s degree in Education. 

For her case study, Basi used three campus management team members at a Technical Vocational Education and Training College (TVET). 

Basi said being a lecturer in a TVET college in a rural area motivated her to research her chosen topic. ‘I explored leadership experiences of a campus management team in a TVET college campus which seemed to thrive in a rural area.’ 

She says through her interactions with participants in the study she gained a clear understanding of the business challenges encountered, leadership practices to respond to the challenges, and the influence of the rural setting on leadership style. 

Said Basi: ‘I believe my research will benefit society, particularly leaders and lecturers at TVET colleges as they can learn from the findings I have shared in my dissertation. One of the study’s findings was the critical importance of investing in planning and setting systems as this indicates how the management team collaborated on and shared planning arrangements among themselves. The participants understood the systems in places and their importance and this was passed on to staff and students. 

Basi, who is now studying for her PhD, said standards were set very high during her studies and this challenged her, while the death of her mother had been a huge setback. 

She thanked family and friends and also her supervisor Dr Sibonelo Blose for their support. 

Offering encouragement to others on their postgraduate journey, she said, ‘The secret is never stop, keep pushing and everything will fall into place. You can conquer challenges with patience, resilience, and hard work.’ 

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

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Study Delves into Community’s Perceptions of an Early Lightning Warning System

Study Delves into Community’s Perceptions of an Early Lightning Warning System
Social Sciences graduate, Ms Senelisiwe Ndlela.

As part of a transdisciplinary anthropology and agricultural sciences research study, Ms Senelisiwe Ndlela investigated community perceptions of an early lightning warning system in kwaSwayimane, uMshwathi. 

This study, which is part of a larger investigation under the uMngeni Resilience Project, culminated in Ndlela graduating with a Master’s degree in Social Sciences. 

‘Lightning causes extensive damage to people’s livestock as well as accidents, injury to people and damage to infrastructure. This is more devastating to communities where such incidents are common, therefore, systems similar to the lightning warning system in KwaSwayimane are helpful,’ said Ndlela. 

The study gathered insights and views of the local community of KwaSwayimane on the system which was erected in their area because of their vulnerability to lightning and other natural hazards. 

Invaluable information was gathered and discussed, including details about indigenous techniques the community uses to protect themselves from lightning strikes. 

‘This study lays a foundation for other future studies in the field as it will contribute towards the role of indigenous perceptions on community-based approaches towards the discourse of climate change within anthropology and technological sciences,’ added Ndlela.

This study also uncovered the different techniques that the KwaSwayimane community uses and the impact that the lightning warning system has on the local community. Being able to engage with the community and gain their first-hand experience of the system and its impact towards reducing their vulnerability to lightning strikes was invaluable and will contribute towards producing a feasible programme that will benefit all stakeholders. 

Ndlela thanked her family, friends and supervisors Professor Maheshvari Naidu and Professor Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi. ‘Being able to work with supervisors from different colleges and disciplines exposed me to different environments and also allowed me to immerse science into social sciences. The invaluable information and knowledge I gained from the community through data collection opened my eyes as an individual and as an African to the impact of indigenous knowledge in communities.’ 

Ndlela dedicated her degree to her late grandmother Ms Oswina Nomalungelo and thanked her sister Semkelisiwe, brother Samkelo and aunt Sinethemba for their support. 

This was her advice for fellow researchers: ‘It is important to surround yourself with a good support system - the support you get from your family and friends will surely see you through to completion of your degree.’ 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

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Violence at KZN Schools Investigated During Doctoral Research

Violence at KZN Schools Investigated During Doctoral Research
Dr Nomakhosi Sibisi, a lecturer in the School of Applied Human Sciences.

The causes of violence at schools in KwaZulu-Natal and the associated impacts on learners and teachers were investigated in research for a doctoral degree by lecturer in the School of Applied Human Sciences Dr Nomakhosi Sibisi. 

Sibisi graduated from UKZN with a PhD in Criminology and Forensic Studies for her study which examined school violence - direct and indirect - from the perspective of victims in a school setting as well as those who were observers. 

‘School violence has become pervasive and is on the upsurge in schools throughout South Africa, and more especially in KwaZulu-Natal,’ said Sibisi. 

‘The reality is that learners carry knives and guns to school and many arrive under the influence of substances such as drugs and alcohol. Schools should have a welcoming environment where educators can teach openly and learning take place without fear of victimisation or looming danger. Learners and educators who are exposed to violence on a regular basis suffer from various adverse psychological and physical effects.’ 

Her study identified school-based violence with specific reference to community violence and high rates of crime as drivers of stress and fear among learners and educators. ‘Many learners in schools studied exhibited behavioural problems due to the adverse socio-economic conditions within their respective communities,’ said Sibisi. 

Based on her findings, Sibisi recommends that close collaboration and partnerships between schools, the community, and the police should be forged to address alcohol and drug peddling in and around schools. 

‘Parents and guardians need to be accountable for their children’s delinquent behaviour and a point of departure should be their active involvement such as attending school meetings where issues of school violence, drugs, and weapons are discussed and often resolved collaboratively,’ stated Sibisi. 

‘A lot has been written about how school violence affects learners and their capability to perform well, ignoring the fact that educators are also affected by school violence.’ 

Her research findings revealed that ‘a school does not exist in a vacuum but is part of broader society. Schools situated in an area with a high incidence of violence are more likely to experience incidents of violence. 

‘Educators suffer from a number of different psychological and physical effects due to their exposure to violence on a regular basis.’    

Sibisi thanked family, friends and her supervisor for their support during her PhD journey. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Experiences of African Residents in Durban’s Cato Manor Researched for Doctoral Degree

Experiences of African Residents in Durban’s Cato Manor Researched for Doctoral Degree
Dr Mphumeleli Ngidi is the first in his family to graduate with a PhD.

UKZN History lecturer Dr Mphumeleli Ngidi researched experiences of African residents who lived in Durban’s Cato Manor for his PhD in Social Sciences. 

The area, popularly known as Mkhumbane, was impacted by the Group Areas Act of 1950 - it was one of several multi-racial communities where people were forced by the apartheid regime to move out of the area into townships such as KwaMashu, Chatsworth and Phoenix. 

Ngidi used a mixture of life histories and community case histories to explore recollections of life in the old Cato Manor, the human cost of forcible relocation, the removals themselves, and the difficulty of establishing “home” in the new townships. 

His study found that former residents of the area experienced shocking living conditions. He noted that ‘forced apartheid-era displacement exacerbated this and had devastating social, cultural, and economic consequences’ while those forcibly removed carried memories of suffering. 

His study also examines how Cato Manor developed historically with insights into the legacy of segregation from the pre-apartheid era. In examining everyday life in Cato Manor, his work uncovers a picture of how former residents developed a sense of place in Cato Manor, establishing religious institutions, schools, community halls and various welfare support organisations, despite challenges they faced. 

Cato Manor emerged as a centre for the production of a vibrant popular culture among Africans in Durban. ‘Beer brewing and drinking was a central component of this culture and provided thriving businesses through which many urban African women survived. 

‘The bosses and apartheid authorities wanted African men to drink, but on their (the bosses’) terms,’ said Ngidi. ‘The authorities and bosses wanted a monopoly of the beer trade by brewing and selling in beer halls - they did not tolerate home brewing by women as in their eyes it constituted an economic threat to the State, and gave women freedom that the State would not countenance. Home brewing resulted in raids by authorities in townships and hostels across the country. When women’s livelihoods were threatened they took to the streets to protest.’ 

Oral recounts of history became an important research tool for Ngidi. ‘It is a vital means to capture the memories of respondents as well as their experiences of the near past.’ He believes that oral history can play a crucial role in documenting the story of marginalised communities and add to the social history narratives in the KwaZulu-Natal region. He encouraged others to apply oral testimonies in their research. 

‘History belongs to the people regardless of their levels of education or social stance,’ said Ngidi. ‘If we want to unearth histories of our societies we must consider the marginalised people and record their voices. Classism should not be the order of society. People are equal but we differ in our responsibilities because we cannot all do the same thing hence we are all important.’ 

He says oral testimonies of the marginalised are absent from official documents. ‘It is important to continue to undertake such research to give a voice to those who suffered under apartheid otherwise they will remain doubly victimised - brutalised under apartheid, and silenced in the post-apartheid period.’ 

Ngidi is passionate about the importance of mother tongue use and for this reason included quotations in isiZulu in his thesis. Had the regulations permitted it, he would have preferred writing the entire dissertation in isiZulu. 

Ngidi thanked his family, friends, supervisor and colleagues in the School of Social Sciences for their support. He paid tribute to his father Mr Petros Nkosiyami Ngidi, ‘for his faith and trust in me completing my PhD. A school drop-out petrol attendant turned small business owner whose highest completed grade was Standard 1 (Grade 3), my father understood and encouraged me in all that I was doing’. He dedicated his PhD to his late mother, Ms Thokozisile Mavis Nduli. 

Ngidi plans to assist more students, ‘especially from previously disadvantaged backgrounds like mine to archive academically. I am the first person in my family to be awarded a doctorate. I hope this encourages more people to take education seriously.’ 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph:  Supplied


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Primary School Teachers’ Views on Transgender Identity Explored in Research

Primary School Teachers’ Views on Transgender Identity Explored in Research
Summa cum laude Master’s degree in Education for Ms Karen Sathyanand.

Primary school teachers’ views on transgender identity was the focus of research done by Ms Karen Sathyanand for her Master’s degree in Education which she received summa cum laude from UKZN. 

‘I have always had a passion for women empowerment and a desire to stand up for gender equality,’ said Sathyanand. ‘I decided to pursue my master's and use the platform to explore contemporary challenges surrounding gender and sexual diversity in primary schools, employing the knowledge to help provide solutions to gender problems,’ she said.

The aim of the research, supervised by Professor Deevia Bhana, was to discover where gendered understanding, information and views originate and determine how they shape the teaching and learning environment. ‘During months of planning and organisation I was able to talk to different teachers and really listen and learn about their lives and perspectives on the LGBTIQ+ community and transgender identities in particular.’ 

Sathyanand believes that the strategies provided in her research can ultimately benefit primary school environments in maintaining an atmosphere that is trans-inclusive and against gender discrimination. 

Some of the key findings revealed inadequate knowledge of transgender identity due to essentialist belief systems that impede the construction of gender knowledge. The findings also pointed to a patriarchal society where unequal power relations within communities, culture, tradition and religion oppose transgender and other non-conforming gender identities. Notwithstanding this, the teachers appeared intent to acquire more information on the phenomenon and extend their professional development. 

The research provided recommendations that include adopting a whole-school approach that examines developing inclusive strategies of negotiation, compromise, endorsement of well-informed respect for difference, and promotion of conflict resolution practices to deal with differences of opinion. 

Sathyanand thanked her family, friends and supervisor. ‘My parents in particular have taken an interest in gender education and continuously encourage me to share research about gender, sexuality and transgender identity during our family meetings. Thank you to everyone who in some way or another helped bring this study to realisation.’ 

Her advice to other researchers and students is: ‘There will definitely be times where you are exhausted and overwhelmed so prioritise taking time off. Read an article that is not related to your research, go for a run or simply scroll through social media.’ 

Sathyanand plans to pursue a PhD in the gender field and hopes to play a role in advocating for the inclusion of LGBTIQ+ identities in South African education. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Research into Gender Mainstreaming in Warwick Market to Promote Inclusive Cities

Research into Gender Mainstreaming in Warwick Market to Promote Inclusive Cities
Master of Town and Regional Planning graduate, Ms Kiara Rampaul.

Exploring the concept of Gender Mainstreaming in Urban Space to Promote Inclusive Cities: A Case of Warwick Market, earned Ms Kiara Rampaul a Master of Town and Regional Planning degree. 

Rampaul, whose research concentrated on theorising urban spaces through a feminist planning perspective, says while there is gender balance in urban spaces, the urban environment could still be considered as mostly “a masculine sphere”. 

Her research was recognised by the South African Research Chair of Inclusive Cities (SARChI) which led to her being awarded a scholarship with her thesis being funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF). 

The study findings indicate that representation is about more than simply making faces and bodies visible - it’s about making experience evident. To promote inclusion, people’s experiences must be shared and tracked through urban design. 

Rampaul argues that the answer to creating inclusive urban public spaces that are accessible and safe for all members of society is good design and community dialogue. ‘Women’s experience and understanding of urban environments varies from men’s, and these disparities must be considered when planning and designing areas,’ she said. 

In the framework of her case study, Warwick Junction Urban Renewal Project, the project’s informal traders, most of whom are women, were involved in the planning and design of the project. Using an intersectional gendered perspective, the market area’s conception and design were informed by women’s distinct experiences, needs and concerns. 

‘To establish gender equal urban spaces and cities, women must make decisions about urban design. A gender balance is required to develop gender equality and establish inclusive, safe urban spaces that represent the needs and desires of not only women but the entire community,’ she said. 

Rampaul confesses that the pandemic had made her nervous. ‘I was entirely absorbed in my assignments, exams and my dissertation proposal, until the day the academic year was unexpectedly cut short and strict lockdown measures imposed - then reality set in,’ she said. Her data collection was not going to happen as planned because of social distancing and she had to work online. 

The freedom to conduct her research from a feminist planning perspective was the highlight of her study. Other highlights of her final-year included co-authoring South African Destination among African Women Immigrants, a chapter published in a book titled: Immigrant Women’s Voices and Integrating Feminism into Migration Theory, and having an article titled: Engaging COVID-19 in South Africa through a Gender Lens published by the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development at the University of Lagos. 

She strongly believes her research will have a direct impact on improving existing perceptions about inclusive public urban spaces and their design. 

She thanked her family for their understanding and encouragement as well as her supervisor, Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha, for invaluable advice during her studies. 

Rampaul had this advice for master's and PhD researchers: ‘You must concentrate on your short-term and long-term goals and assess where your studies lead you; keep your target in sight and stay on track even when things get difficult or when a global pandemic strikes.’ 

Rampaul is currently working at Zimanga Urban and Rural Design and is a student researcher for the South African Chair of Inclusive Cities (SARChI). 

Her long-term goal is to earn a PhD in the built environment. 

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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Robert Mugabe’s Funeral Speeches for Zimbabwean National Heroes - Rants or Eloquent Orations?

Robert Mugabe’s Funeral Speeches for Zimbabwean National Heroes - Rants or Eloquent Orations?
PhD in Linguistics graduate, Dr Prosper Takavarasha.

Dr Prosper Takavarasha graduated with a PhD in Linguistics for his research into funeral speeches made by the late former Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe for “heroes” buried at the National Heroes’ Acre (NHA) in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

The study was in response to contradictory views of Mugabe’s speeches which some labelled as “unrelenting rants”, while others regarded as eloquent orations. 

Professor Heike Tappe and Professor Langa Khumalo supervised the study which examined 26 of Mugabe’s funeral speeches comprising 13 997 distinct words and employed WordSmith Tools to identify and analyse frequent word and language choices in the speeches. 

The research found that reference, conjunction, reiteration, and collocation were the main features which establish ‘coherence as internal to the text’ in the examples.  The same type of speeches, delivered at the same location, by the same speaker are the features which establish ‘coherence as internal to the listener’. 

The study expands Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) theory of cohesion by identifying narrative, comparison, argumentation, and contextual framing as four cognitive elements that offer a framework for investigating and evaluating the coherence of speeches. 

‘I found that Mugabe manipulates the identified features of cohesion and coherence in the corpus so as to represent the situation in ways that promote his preferred values and political ideology,’ said Takavarasha. ‘Despite the use of code-switching and code-mixing found in the corpus, Mugabe’s speeches are cohesive and coherent because of identifiable features of cohesion and coherence.’ 

The study concludes ‘that Mugabe was an eloquent orator as his language use and vocabulary were not random but targeted at the majority of his Shona- and English-speaking audiences. Ideas for further research include analysing all of Mugabe’s funeral speeches, to compare the style and structure of his speeches to those of his successor. Such a comparison could add further insights into the cohesion and coherence of political discourse and the epideictic genre of rhetoric,’ he said. 

Takavarasha thanked his family, friends and supervisors for their support during his studies.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

 Photograph: Supplied


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Theological Studies Primarily a Man’s Territory in Catholic Church - Research Suggests

Theological Studies Primarily a Man’s Territory in Catholic Church - Research Suggests
Ms Petronella Bweupe was awarded a Master’s degree in Theology.

A study by Ms Petronella Bweupe of the Sisters of Mercy for a Master’s degree in Theology delves into the different approaches by the Catholic and Anglican churches towards women being ordained into the ministry. 

The research explores in detail how women’s ordination is an issue of divergence between the two churches. 

‘Theological thinkers have extensively debated about how the involvement of women in the clerical space has dominantly challenged the unity between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches,’ said Bweupe. 

‘Theological studies seem to be a man’s academic space in the Catholic Church. This has led to African women in the Catholic Church being passive participants in theological and church issues. I am convinced that if more women studied theology in Africa, especially in Zambia, it will make a difference in the church because a lot of women theologians will add their voices to the life of the church and  be able to participate in shaping the life of the church,’ said Bweupe. 

Passionate about gender equality in the Catholic Church structures, she strongly believes that experiences of African women have given shape to the history of Christian theology. She plans to contribute to the future of theology by taking part in the formation of priests and religious women through teaching in theological institutions, seminaries and houses of formation for religious women. 

Through her writings, Bweupe plans to advocate for the inclusion of women theologians in decision-making processes in the Roman Catholic Church. ‘I would also like to see the status of women improve through better female representation in the structures of the church,’ she said. 

She says she will develop her PhD thesis titled: The Domestic Church: Evaluating the Role of the Small Christian Communities (SCCs), in implementing the Pastoral and Missionary Vision of Vatican II. 

Bweupe thanked her family, friends and supervisor Professor Sue Rakoczy for their support. 

Said Rakoczy: ‘Sister Petronella has a very bright future as an African woman theologian, and I look forward to her contributions.’ 

Head of Gender and Religion at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics Professor Charlene van der Walt added: ‘Sister Petronella has completed an important study within the gender and religion landscape and as a senior faith leader in her religious tradition she will make an important contribution as a change agent working for the liberation of women.’ 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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PhD Graduate Kept Doctoral Studies a Secret from Family

PhD Graduate Kept Doctoral Studies a Secret from Family
A PhD in Drama and Performance Studies for UKZN lecturer, Dr Noxolo Matete.

Lecturer in the School of Arts Dr Noxolo Matete kept her doctoral studies a secret from her family for three years before surprising them with the news that she was to graduate with a PhD in Drama and Performance Studies. 

‘My parents had encouraged me for a long time to do a PhD,’ said Matete. ‘So, because I knew the degree would mean so much to them, I thought, why not let it be extra special by making it a surprise? I do love surprises! The news was met by shrieks of delight, dancing and congratulatory hugs.’  

Matete’s research examined the factors contributing to the under-representation of Black women stage directors in South African theatre. She concentrated her study on three of South Africa’s six state-funded theatres - Artscape in Cape Town, the Market in Johannesburg and the Playhouse in Durban - between 1999 and 2018. 

She held one-on-one in-depth interviews with the institutional heads of theatres, and with 12 Black (African, Coloured and Indian) women who have directed productions in at least one of the theatres during the 20 years under investigation. 

‘Although these women have had directing opportunities within these theatres, their narratives reveal adverse experiences at the time that their productions were staged or later,’ said Matete. 

Her research revealed that Black men, White men and White women theatre directors continued to dominate mainstream stages. 

‘Cultural policy is not the panacea for persistent intersectional prejudices at state-supported theatres as other mitigating factors are at play, including the profoundly elitist nature of the mainstream performing arts world and the notion of excellence,’ said Matete. ‘Nevertheless, it remains the foundational document guiding artistic activities in these spaces in a democracy.’ 

Matete notes that in their frameworks, the White Paper of 1996 and later drafts, neglected to effectively facilitate the overt inclusion of Black women stage directors. 

‘Efforts to substantially transform these theatres are further betrayed by the pursuit of commercial viability,’ she said. ‘Additionally, a lack of investment by these institutions regarding training and capacity-building programmes designed to benefit specifically Black women directors does not augur well for emerging directors particularly. Furthermore, aspects like the level of education, training, experience or accolades do not seem to ease challenges of access, despite the various efforts made by this group of practitioners to get into these spaces,’ said Matete. 

‘Essentially, weak cultural policy frameworks alongside insufficiently funded theatres that must see to their own sustainability, foster an arts and culture landscape that has only marginally transformed in more than 25 years of democracy.’ 

She thanked her family, friends, God and her supervisor for their support during her PhD journey. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Val Adamson


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Doctoral Research Explores Experiences of Rural Working Mothers Studying for University Degrees

Doctoral Research Explores Experiences of Rural Working Mothers Studying for University Degrees
PhD in Education recipient, Dr Welile Msimango.

Research into the experiences of rural working mothers studying for degrees through university earned Dr Welile Msimango a PhD in Education from UKZN. 

‘I didn’t choose the topic; the topic chose me. The intention was to understand their educational experiences and to find out what methods they used to address them,’ said Msimango. 

‘As mothers, they have children depending on them, and as workers, their employers expect them to deliver regardless of their other responsibilities. Their stories inspired me in many ways.’ 

Msimango believes her study will benefit society, ‘The universities as developers of adult learning will learn about the challenges of adult students, in particular women who sacrifice everything to study. Rural women aiming to do degrees will learn how others on the same path cope with the challenges.’ 

She thanked her family, friends and supervisor Professor Thabo Msibi. 

On her plans for the future, Msimango said: ‘I will visit schools to motivate learners and create awareness that education is the key to success. The Black community is still experiencing poverty and limited skills but there is no short cut. In order to alleviate poverty, learners must study, dropping out is not a solution.’ 

Her daughters Thobeka, Londiwe and Nothando said they were proud of their mother who was the first in the family to get a PhD. ‘Education is important in our family and mom has certainly raised the bar for the rest of us.’ 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Online Perceptions of Muslim Women Using Social Media Explored in PhD

Online Perceptions of Muslim Women Using Social Media Explored in PhD
Dr Cherry Muslim dons a thobe to celebrate her graduation.

For her doctorate in Religion and Social Transformation, UKZN academic Dr Cherry Muslim researched how digital activism can challenge and create dominant perceptions about Muslim women on social media. 

Muslim, who donned a thobe (a hand-embroidered Palestinian ankle-length, long-sleeved garment outfit worn by women on formal occasions) as part of her Graduation celebration, said: ‘For me, the thobe is symbolic of female activism against all forms of political, religious and gendered violence. It was given to me as a birthday present a few years back and I kept it to be worn specifically for my Graduation.’ 

Her research explored the cyber-activism of human rights activist Asmaa Mahfouz, who is thought to have sparked a mass uprising through her video blog post a week before the start of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.  Muslim’s research aim was to provide evidence that participatory online culture, specifically within the context of YouTube comment culture, can create positive perceptions of Muslim women in cyberactivism. 

‘Drawing on a decolonial Islamic feminist lens, the study revealed that while, to some extent, gendered and colonial stereotypes of Muslim women persist in online spaces, predominantly positive perceptions of Muslim women were realised through Mahfouz’s varied Islamic-feminist strategies,’ she said. 

The research provided evidence that participatory online culture can produce positive perceptions of Muslim women in cyberactivism. 

‘The early stages of my study were particularly difficult as the research should have been a case study through interviews with Mahfouz, however, two years went by with no success in getting to speak to her.’ Muslim was then advised to use social media and Mahfouz’s blog to collect the necessary data. 

Muslim says it is necessary to put in the effort and do the work to mature as a researcher. During her studies she learned about how much research is being done globally on social media and through online/virtual research platforms. 

The COVID-19 restrictions on live interaction gave her some time to work on her research without disruptions. 

She thanked her family, friends, and her supervisor for their support. ‘My supervisor had faith in my abilities and my PhD coach was just amazing, without her I would have been stranded.’ 

Muslim plans to continue lecturing and growing her research in the area of Islam and digital religion, as well as mentoring future postgraduate students. 

She advised master's and PhD candidates ‘to avoid procrastination, write more and to record where every single bit of information comes from.’ 

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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Doctoral Research Investigates Cyberstalking in Tanzanian University

Doctoral Research Investigates Cyberstalking in Tanzanian University
Dr Angela Kavishe graduated with a PhD in Sociology.

Cyberstalking in Tanzanian Universities was the subject of research by Dr Angela Kavishe, who was awarded a PhD in Sociology for the study, supervised by Professor Maheshvari Naidu. 

‘Cyberstalking is a kind of online harassment characterised by the persistent pursuit and monitoring of a victim performed by a determined perpetrator inducing fear or a feeling of being unsafe in the harassed person,’ said Kavishe. 

‘It is a behaviour carried out mainly by men attempting to establish intimate relationships with women online. This kind of gender-based violence is documented in Western countries but there is limited data from Africa and developing countries in general.’ 

The study, undertaken in Tanzania at the University of Dar es Salaam, explored how digital technology creates new platforms of violence on the university campus and how its institutional facilities curb cyberstalking. 

‘Cyberstalked female students generally suffer in silence so the majority of victims do not report the incidents while at the same time institutions do not have a conducive environment to respond to their suffering,’ said Kavishe. ‘My study creates a broad understanding of cyber harassment and the findings will inform law enforcers and policymakers about the nature of the problem. Being one of the earliest empirical studies on cyberstalking in Tanzania, this publication unpacks the concept of cyberstalking and paves a way for further research on the problem.’ 

Kavishe thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support. ‘It was exciting working with Professor Naidu as my supervisor. She was keen on detail and always gave me extensive, constructive, and prompt feedback, which enabled me to finish my study.’ 

Offering advice to other PhD hopefuls, Kavishe said, ‘A PhD candidate needs to focus on the topic, dedicate time to the work and critically interrogate thoughts from scholarly works.’ 

She now plans to publish and expand knowledge on the impacts of digital technology in the lives of women. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph:  Supplied

 


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“The Lived Reality of Queer People” in Shembe Church Explored in Research

“The Lived Reality of Queer People” in Shembe Church Explored in Research
Ms Siphelele Mazibuko whose study aimed to expand her knowledge in the field of theology.

Research that explored “the lived reality of queer people” in the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe Church) culminated in Ms Siphelele Mazibuko graduating from UKZN with a Master’s degree in Theology. 

Mazibuko says she did the degree to expand her knowledge in the field of theology and to delve deeper into issues ‘pertaining to the intersection of gender, sexuality, health and religion’.  She also saw it a starting point for her academic career. 

‘This auto-ethnographic explorative study has allowed me to share my own embodied narrative from the queer perspective,’ said Mazibuko. 

Her research examined the concept of ‘othering’ as seen in oppression, isolation, discrimination, exclusion and hate crimes and the pain inflicted on queer people deemed different in terms of gender and sexual orientation. 

Mazibuko says her study ‘will bring about a realisation that being African is all about embracing humanity and its diversity and understanding that society is changing.  It will also counter policies and traditional norms that are inhumane because over and above gender and sexual identities, queer people are human beings who should be treated with dignity.’ 

She examined lesbianism as a rejection of men rather than an attraction to women as well as male violence arising from lesbianism. ‘These results showcase lesbian sexuality and how it is questioned and labelled as “wanting to be men or rejecting men”. Many people still understand lesbian sexuality as a reaction against men’s violence against women,’ said Mazibuko. 

‘Heteronormative notions are usually produced by patriarchal systems which make queer lives impossible because Black societies and religious communities believe that anything, including sexual orientation, outside what is considered to be the norm is abnormal, un-African and un-natural and react in negative ways to confront it such as through hate speech, homophobic rape, exclusion, and isolation.’ 

She said although some families ostracised their homosexual children, others believed in Ubuntu and applied the philosophy’s principles in relationships with their homosexual children as ‘there is no dustbin for a human being. Ubuntu offers an alternative approach to the traditional negative attitude towards homosexuality, promoting more acceptance and communication.’ 

Mazibuko said church leaders needed to create and establish values that provided guidance for people about relating with others in a dignified manner. ‘Many queer people feel silenced, discriminated against, isolated and excluded. 

‘Doing a master’s degree was demanding and often emotionally draining and overwhelming. The COVID-19 pandemic made the situation more difficult but I stuck to my plan and completed the degree.’ 

Mazibuko thanked her family and friends for their support. 

She is currently registered to do a PhD in Theology. 

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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Summative Assessment at Primary School Level in Zimbabwe Explored in PhD

Summative Assessment at Primary School Level in Zimbabwe Explored in PhD
PhD in Curriculum Studies graduate, Dr Lucia Tsitsi Musekiwa.

Research into the summative assessment experiences of teachers in Zimbabwean primary schools resulted in Dr Lucia Musekiwa being awarded a PhD in Curriculum Studies. 

The aim of her research was to provide more insight for education authorities, the schools examination board, school administrators, teachers, learners, parents and all stakeholders about assessment practices in primary schools. 

Musekiwa, who says her research calls for formative, continuous assessment, discovered that most rural and farm schools were under-resourced and, as a result, are mostly disadvantaged in final summative examinations. 

The study was prompted by the universal shift in perspective about assessment which promotes formative and continuous assessment modes in teaching and learning. The research presents assessment as being for learning rather than as a one-time final score that judges and determines the whole of the learner’s life from primary level upwards. 

‘The efforts and attempts to change the assessment system in Zimbabwe have been acknowledged, though they have largely remained on paper, disadvantaging capable learners,’ said Musekiwa. 

The findings revealed that teachers’ experiences of a summative assessment at Grade 7 level, which is still the sole final assessment at this level in Zimbabwe, has had more negative impacts than positive ones, particularly for the majority of the less privileged learners and under-resourced schools. 

Study participants identified the following as influences and impacts associated with summative assessment: pressure, anxiety, stress in both learners and teachers emanating from preparation for the one final examination, and negative judgements of learners and teachers in response to the results, thereby impacting the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom. 

Musekiwa argues that ‘If the results are to be true reflections of the learners and schools, socio-economic factors surrounding the learners and schools need to be considered in assessment practices.’ 

A high teacher-pupil ratio emerged as a significant negative factor in the area of sole summative examinations at Grade 7 level, and one which led to unprofessional instructional practices to cope with the demands of these terminal examinations. Inadequate resources were another challenging factor in a situation of one sole final examination. 

The use of English for teaching, learning, and examination purposes was revealed as a challenge to most disadvantaged learners and under-resourced schools, in particular, those with no facilities and supportive resources to aid mastering the language and in improving pass rates, especially through summative assessment. Therefore, different categories of schools mattered in whether summative assessment enabled equitable, neutral, and fair assessment. 

Emerging from the findings was consensus on merging formative, continuous, and summative forms of assessment. A holistic approach to assessment was called for, taking into cognisance the diverse backgrounds of learners and schools. 

The publication and comparison of results emerged as a demotivating factor for low-income schools and disadvantaged learners. 

Musekiwa suggests ‘a more balanced and holistic assessment structure at the Grade 7 level that caters for diverse populations and environments in Zimbabwe.’ 

‘My wish is to contribute more information and shed more light on embracing the fusion of formative assessment into continuous and summative assessment for final evaluation and decisions for Grade 7 learners in Zimbabwe in a bid to accommodate all categories and socio-economic statuses of schools and learners,’ she said.  

Musekiwa thanked family, friends and her supervisor Dr Lokesh Maharajh for his ‘outstanding and unwavering assistance, advice, guidance, and helpful direction throughout this study.’ 

Musekiwa hopes to become a lecturer and to research and write more on related issues in the education system. 

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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Master’s Graduates Explored Community Development Issues in Research

Master’s Graduates Explored Community Development Issues in Research
Graduates Ms Zandile Msimango (left) and Ms Bridget Msomi (right) with their supervisor, Dr Phindile Shangase.

A desire to play a role in improving health-related matters in communities spurred the research of two graduates - Ms Zandile Msimango and Ms Bridget Msomi - who were awarded Master’s degrees in Community and Development. 

Msimango says her interest in health-related issues began after exposure to chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS led her to expand her knowledge on the subject. 

Community Development being a multi-disciplinary field allowed her to select a health-related topic that examined whether sufficient emotional support is given to cancer patients. 

Msimango’s study revealed that there was a lack of emotional support services for cancer patients and no measures were in place for the Department of Health to promote emotional health care for them. The findings also highlighted some of the key challenges experienced by cancer patients in public hospitals. 

‘Access to healthcare is a basic human right and government should aim to provide universal and equitable access to high-quality health care services,’ said Msimango. 

She thanked her supervisor Dr Phindile Shangase for her support. 

Msomi whose research focused on the impact of community participation in HIV prevention programmes, said following this career path had helped improve her perception of life through meeting different people during her research, ‘My masters studies have helped me increase my knowledge and prepare for my future - I learned a lot from the individuals that I selected to participate in my study,’ she said. 

Msomi did research on the Woza Asibonisane Community Responses (ACR) programme which is aimed at reducing the number of new HIV infections as well as the vulnerability of the infected and affected. 

Msomi’s study examined three preventative interventions - behavioural (sex education and programmes to reduce stigma and discrimination), biomedical (condoms, testing and treatment) and structural interventions (addressing inequality). 

She thanked her mother, Ms Nokuthula Zwane, and her supervisor, Dr Shangase, for their support. 

She had this to say to colleagues: ‘Just keep this in mind - if your dissertation has not made you cry then there is something you’re not doing right!’ 

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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Critical Approach to Language Explored in PhD Research

Critical Approach to Language Explored in PhD Research
Talent Equity and Excellence Scholarship recipient, Dr Sanele Nsele.

Dr Sanele Nsele’s PhD research explored an approach that enables teachers and learners to be more critical about language used in literary texts and social phenomena. 

Nsele was the first student at UKZN’s School of Education to receive the Talent Equity and Excellence Scholarship and today he is a lecturer in isiZulu Education at the School. 

‘During my days of being a high school educator, teaching was based on only one approach which focused mainly on textual structure and its elements, thus my enthusiasm to dig deep to discover approaches which can be used by teachers to create critical engagement with literary texts. 

‘My research results showed that there is a need to teach critical language awareness and social phenomena through literary texts. I came up with a model which can be used in teaching prose in African languages,’ said Nsele. 

He says conducting research and working remotely due to strict COVID-19 regulations was challenging as he had to adapt to the change of being at home, where there were often disruptions. 

The highlight of his research project was when he presented papers from his study in partnership with his supervisor, Professor Thabisile Buthelezi. 

Nsele says doing the research has helped him grow personally and professionally. 

Now focusing on development and growth as an academic and researcher, he advises his peers to believe in themselves and ‘to never give up no matter how challenging it gets’. 

Words: Sinoyolo Mahlasela

Photograph: Supplied


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PhD Research Focuses on English Language Exam in Jordanian Schools

PhD Research Focuses on English Language Exam in Jordanian Schools
Education PhD graduate, Dr Firas Obeidat.

Research that evaluated the validity and reliability of the Tawjihi English Language Examination as a school-leaving qualification in Grade 12 at public schools in Jordan earned Dr Firas Obeidat a PhD in Education. 

‘As the Tawjihi English Language Examination - among other exams at the schools - is an instrument for the institutional control of potential candidates who expect to join universities and colleges, it must be understood and evaluated as a high stakes test,’ said Obeidat. 

His study is considered the first to benchmark the findings of the Tawjihi English Language Examination and the Oxford Placement Test with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). It analyses the findings of the study by employing the Cambridge VRIPQ (2013) model, which is used for evaluating Cambridge University’s English for Speakers of Other Languages examinations. 

Obeidat believes that the findings and conclusions of his study will be of particular interest to all education stakeholders in Jordan. 

‘The Tawjihi test was found to be of a very superficial standard,’ he said. ‘For example, in order for students to be placed in the A1 CEFR level, they need to get a score of 165 or more out of 200 in the Tawjihi English language exam, which means the exam does not reflect students’ actual English language abilities.’ 

He noted that ‘the Tawjihi English language exam doesn’t cover all the skills listed in the Action Pack 12 curriculum and its guiding document, the General Guidelines and General and Specific Outcomes for the English Language: Basic and Secondary Stages in Jordan (GGGSOEL).’ 

Obeidat found that the mismatch between the exam and the curriculum is also considered challenging, stressful, and a cause of negative feedback on students, teachers, and parents, with a lack of clarity and a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the accuracy of the exam.  

An important finding of his study is that ‘although the Tawjihi English language exam is considered to be difficult, it doesn’t reflect students’ true language abilities. His study found that the writing rubric of the exam is too general. By not having specific criteria to distinguish between test-takers, there is a lack of standardisation among markers. The exam protocols, which include the procedures, instructions, environment, and facilities, were found to be fair for all students.’ 

Recalling some of the highlights of his study, Obeidat said: ‘Traveling to South Africa and meeting my supervisor Professor Ayub Sheik and the South African people was an incredible experience. Exploring South African culture and lifestyle changed my mind about other cultures in general, especially in African countries. My supervisor, family and friends motivated me to continue and finish my study. This let me discover how people, regardless of their culture, background and religion, can help others.’ 

Obeidat plans to conduct more studies in areas that are important to society in Jordan and elsewhere. 

He thanked his family and friends for their support during his studies. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Graduate’s Research Examines Integrating Holistic Education into Sciences Classes

Graduate’s Research Examines Integrating Holistic Education into Sciences Classes
Master’s degree for Natural Sciences Teacher, Mrs Trisha Govindasami.

Research into using arts-based methods to foster holistic education earned Natural Sciences teacher Mrs Trisha Govindasami a Master of Education degree. Supervised by Professor Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan, Govindasami investigated how she could integrate holistic education into her mainstream Science class while still aligning her teaching with the prescribed curriculum. 

Govindasami chose a self-study methodology, unravelling and examining herself and her teaching practice. 

The study was framed by a socio-cultural perspective which enabled Govindasami to see students against a background of diverse social and cultural aspects that influenced their development. 

As the teacher-researcher, this framework emphasised that she, too, did not learn in isolation. 

The first question that framed her research was: How have my past experiences contributed to my interest in Holistic Education? ‘I looked at my past experiences with the aid of artefacts, auto-biographical writing, and self-portrait drawing,’ said Govindasami. ‘This yielded insights into my teaching and why I taught my Science lessons in a specific manner. 

‘My second research question was: How can I foster holistic education in my Science classroom? To answer this question, I worked with my Grade 9 students through adapted lessons that included arts-based techniques. Data was generated using artefact retrieval, reflective journal writing, drawing, collage, and audio recordings of lessons and conversations.’ 

Govindasami found that her students enjoyed those specially adapted lessons and were able to gain confidence as they grew in their attitude towards Science. 

Her final research question was: What is the value of fostering holistic education in a Science classroom? Here, she examined the benefits of pursuing a holistic path in Science education, paired with a drawing of her vision of extending this research into practice in her classrooms. ‘Overall, self-study methodology helped me reflect on and make connections between my past lived experiences and the teacher I am now, enabling me to see the growth of the teacher I have become and wish to be,’ she added. 

The examiners congratulated the candidate and supervisor for exploring a novel field in science teaching and for doing it effectively. 

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied


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Helping Learners Reduce Frustration and Anger Using Meditation

Helping Learners Reduce Frustration and Anger Using Meditation
Master’s graduate, Ms Kelisha Panday.

'I saw a need for meditation in schools to assist learners discover solutions to the myriad of challenges they face', says Ms Kelisha Panday who graduated with a Master’s degree in Education. 

Panday’s study showed that learners displayed positive attitudes and views towards meditation, finding it helpful in reducing frustration and anger, improving concentration and academic performance, and decreasing anxiety. 

Learners also saw meditation having the potential to assist with the productivity of learners, many of whom supported introducing the practice into the school day. 

Panday suggests ‘that meditation be used as an educational tool and strategy to assist learners since it has positively impacted many salient aspects of learners’ educational efforts and personal qualities.’ 

She noted that 'further research will inform the policy and practice concerning the implementation of meditation to the Department of Education and other educators, helping them broaden knowledge about the feasibility and pedagogical value of meditation in schools.’ 

Panday’s advice to other researchers is: ‘Never give up. Once you start studying keep moving forward, irrespective of how long it takes as you will get to the end.’ 

She is also grateful to her family, friends and supervisor Dr Lokesh Maharajh for being her support system. 

On her future, Panday said: ‘My current plan is to enjoy my baby girl, Anjana, and also consider future study.’  

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Supplied 


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