Emerging Academics Graduate with PhDs
Three emerging academics who were part of the New Generation of Academics Programme (nGAP) and recipients of the Talent Excellence and Equity Acceleration Scholarship (TEEAS) have been awarded doctoral degrees.
nGAP is a transformation programme initiated by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to help universities to recruit new academics in line with staffing and development plans. As a part of UKZN’s Integrated Talent Management and Transformation Strategy, the programme supports the University in its transformation goals and also contributes positively to South Africa’s transformation agenda of attaining a youthful workforce in the academic sector and a sufficient representation of Black African academics.
Recipient of the nGAP initiative, Dr Viloshin Govender who graduated with a PhD in Architecture and is a lecturer in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, said he was grateful to the team, especially Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu for her leadership in the nGAP programme and being instrumental in completing his doctoral degree. ‘I owe my supervisor Dr Claudia Loggia a huge thanks. She helped me establish myself as a researcher, and without her guidance this academic journey would have been much harder.’
Govender, who’s passion for teaching and research inspired him to enter the world of academia, highlighted some of the challenges of his academic journey which included stressful workloads as he was supervising students while completing his PhD. However, he added that these challenges helped to build his career.
He said he is working towards a professorship, continuing his research projects and setting up programmes to mentor young students and promote community engagement.
TEEAS is a prestigious academic programme that targets top-performing Black South African undergraduates in their final-year of study. The aim of the programme is to nurture and groom students for academic positions at UKZN. Funded by UKZN, the scholarships are part of the University’s Graduate Development Programme and were established by the Human Resources Development Unit in an effort to contribute to the transformation of South Africa’s academic landscape.
TEEAS recipients’, Drs Lerato Sokhulu and Sanele Nsele who are lecturers in the School of Education said that they were inspired and motivated by their lecturers to enter academia.
Sokhulu fell in love with academia after being introduced to research in her honours degree. She thanked her supervisor, Dr Nomkhosi Nzimande for mentoring her from honours to PhD level and Professor Simon Bheki for instilling discipline in her. She also acknowledged her mother and friends for their love and support and UKZN for granting her a scholarship through the TEEAS programme.
Highlighting some of the highs of her doctoral journey, Sokhulu said, ‘I presented a paper at a national research conference during my first year and published a paper from my PhD in the second year’. The lows included struggling with mild depression during the final-year of her doctoral degree, all the while building a house for her mother. ‘I had to seek therapy for my mental health issues, as I was unable to carry the load of studying and building at the same time. But I thank God for the wisdom and sanity.’
Sokhulu plans to publish more, collaborate with other academics in research projects, attend national and international conferences, apply for fellowship grant opportunities abroad, and build her profile as an academic.
Nsele, who said he never imagined that he would one day be a lecturer, thanked his late mentor and supervisor Professor Thabisile Makhosazane Buthelezi saying, ‘I’m here today because of her.’ He acknowledged his family for believing in him and his dreams and his best friend Sineliso Khumalo for his endless support.
He added that he was fortunate to secure a scholarship through the TEEAS programme. While his academic journey wasn’t easy, the process was made easier by not having to worry about finances.
Nsele plans to grow as an academic, explore academia and establish his research interests.
Honouring the academics for their achievements Mrs Busisiwe Ramabodu, Director for Human Resources Development, said: ‘Congratulations to all the nGAP and TEEAS colleagues that have achieved this important milestone of completing their PhDs. The journey has been long and hard, but you have all prevailed. The tenacity with which you approached this journey will see you succeed and rise through the academic ranks at UKZN, and inspire greatness internationally. Through your achievements, the University is in better standing to attain its transformation aspirations, especially in the academic sector. To the graduates from the prestigious TEEAS, this is an official and special welcome as employees of the University.’
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela