Climbing the Ladder to PhD Dream
Dr Filomena (Mena) Dos Anjos started work on her PhD at UKZN at the age of 53 and completed the degree in just four semesters!
She graduated with a doctorate in the discipline of Animal Science during the Pietermaritzburg Graduation ceremonies.
Originally from Mozambique, Dos Anjos said: ‘Starting a PhD at 53 was not what I had planned. However, you cannot plan for everything in life.’
Dos Anjos attended a medium technical agricultural school in Mozambique after completing her secondary schooling. She later enrolled in Veterinary Medicine and graduated from the Eduardo Mondlane University in 1991, where, at the age of 41, she joined the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine as a Lecturer in Animal Nutrition, feeds and forages.
Intent on pursuing Higher Education, Dos Anjos tried to qualify for scholarships to further her study, but found that all had age restrictions. Finally, she got a scholarship in family poultry development offered by the Danish government without an age limit. She was able to complete her masters degree in 2005 as a result of the scholarship, and in 2008 was given the African Women in Agriculture Research and Development (AWARD) Fellowship.
‘Being an AWARD Fellow helped enhance my self-confidence, expand my professional networks and brought hope and inspiration to pursue my PhD studies,’ said Dos Anjos. ‘As a result, I won a Graça Machel scholarship and registered at a university in South Africa in 2011, however I was not able to continue with my PhD at that university because the supervisors said my English was too poor.’
Dos Anjos did not allow her exclusion on the basis of language to dampen her spirits or determination, and in 2012 she registered for her PhD in Animal Nutrition at UKZN with a thesis titled: Improving the Nutritive Value and Utilization of Non-Conventional Protein Feed Resources in Smallholder Village Chicken Production Systems. She has already had two papers published in journals from her PhD work.
‘Mena is one of the oldest students I have worked with, but also one of the youngest in terms of her enthusiasm and passion to achieve her goals,’ said her supervisor, Professor Michael Chimonyo. ‘I would like to see more students take her approach of overcoming difficulties and persevering in their studies.’
Completing her PhD and graduating was a special time for Dos Anjos, and affirmed her fortitude and persistence in working towards a PhD.
Dos Anjos’ “life ladder” to graduation was inspired by her parents, her husband, son, brothers, sisters, and other family members and dear friends. Dos Anjos thanked the University of Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) Veterinary School, The African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Programme, the Graça Machel SASOL Scholarship, and the Borlaug LEAP Programme, for the opportunities they gave her.
She says her passion and motivation to progress in life is fuelled by her belief that excellence in the process of transferring knowledge can transform lives. For her, this includes disseminating research findings through publication in top, peer-reviewed journals and focusing on timeliness in the research process in order to implement research findings on the ground with communities that are managing farming risk with a large portfolio of household activities to achieve life goals, such as educating their children.
Dos Anjos believes that it is formal education that provided structure to her childhood curiosities in science, and dreams of being empowered to create opportunities with people locally and globally. Her experiences shaped her approach to her studies, and have seen her childhood dream of attaining her PhD fulfilled.