FUTURE RESEARCHERS AT UWC
Office of the DVC: Research & Innovation
FOREWORD The Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation’s Mission for 2021-2025 is Making Research and Innovation Count through Connecting Possibilities. The Office has built on the strengths and successes of the university through the Institutional Operational Plan 2021-2025 which aims to be, a researchled university responsive to the needs of a changing world through excellence in learning, teaching and research and the generation and application of new knowledge. Thus in order to address the local, national and global challenges through research, we have supported innovation and excellence as a collective. We have continued to identify opportunities for UWCs interdisciplinary research strengths while building critical mass in areas that are globally relevant and strategically important. Through the University Capacity Development Grant (UCDG), UWC endeavours to create a vibrant and enabling environment for researchers to push the boundaries of innovative research. The Office remains committed to supporting, encouraging and inspiring researchers to strengthen their track record whilst tackling key societal challenges that benefit communities. We congratulate those who feature in this issue and hopefully they will inspire future UWC researchers and the broader community. We will continue facilitating interdisciplinary research collaborations, capacity building, training and support for our emerging researchers and our broader research community.
Dr. Thabile Sokupa (Ph,D) Director: Strategic Projects and Partnership (UWC)
PROF JM FRANTZ PROVIDING AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT ARE NOT JUST MERE WORDS BUT NEEDS ACTION AND RESOURCES
The University of the Western Cape has proven its resilience in a higher education environment that demands commitment and hard work from its staff. The contribution to the success of the university comes from emerging and established researchers. In the 2016-2020 research strategy of the university, providing an enabling environment for researchers was a key objective. Providing an enabling environment are not just mere words but needs action and resources. Through the University Capacity Development Grant we have been able to help create an enabling environment for researchers across the spectrum including emerging researchers. Capacity development initiatives that allow staff to move their career forward are important. When we implement capacity development programs, we tend to focus on impacting the life of the individual, the institution and ultimately the sector. In the academic sector, early career academics are expected to take on many roles and go through many transitions in the early stages of their career. One of the many roles is being an active researcher which includes being able to conduct research, engage in scientific communication such as publications and source funding to support their research. For the period 2018-2020 we implemented the 2
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
Developing the Research Scholar Program which aimed at developing early career researchers as holistic academics. We provided a structured, consistent development programme to support early career researchers. It is the intention that these capacity development programs will capacitate the participants which ultimately will lead to developing better teachers and researchers and thus improving the profile of the University. The program took the form of modules/ workshops which included developing a research profile, writing for publication, proposal writing and grant writing. In addition, participants were included in coaching circles that allowed for peer coaching and mentoring sessions. Through this program participants were able to network across faculties, across institutions and internationally. This edition of the e-magazine is not focused on mere numbers but on the impact these capacity development initiatives have on the academic lives of early career researchers. Understanding the impact of these initiatives is key as we continue to strive to improve the environment in which academics need to operate in order to make a valuable contribution. I trust that you will enjoy reading the stories of our academics and we look forward to hearing from you as you share and encourage through your story.
Significant FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
DR. FANXIA AN How were your findings conducted?
Could you give a brief explanation of what the COSMOS field is? The COSMOS field is an astronomical survey field, located near the equator in the sky. The location made it accessible to several groundbased large telescopes in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, as well as the major space-based telescopes. Consequently, it is one of the best-studied fields, which yielded a rich trove of astronomical data. Therefore, it is ideal for studying the properties of the galaxies in our Universe.
What is the importance of the Meerkat radio telescope? The MeerKAT radio telescope is currently the most sensitive radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. The MeerKAT radio is set to be surpassed by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be the world’s largest radio telescope when complete. It will have unprecedented power in reaching deeper space and forming clearer images, which will help us explore the origins of our Universe and our home galaxy — the Milky Way, to better understand our own position in the Universe.
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
We used the early science data observed by the South African MeerKAT telescope to analyse a little more than 2000 galaxies. Galaxies are a fundamental component of our Universe, and understanding how they form and evolve over cosmic time remains one of the greatest challenges of modern astronomy. We selected 2,094 galaxies that are active in forming stars, which means they are energetic and young (in cosmic time scales). This is an ideal sample for us to study the growth of the galaxies and the key features that affect their formation and evolution. The distances to these galaxies are so great that light, the fastest messenger in the Universe, takes roughly 1 to 11 giga-years (Gyr= 9 years) to arrive from them. In this way, the galaxies we observe now reflect how they used to be roughly 1 to 11 billion years ago. That means we have a collection of galaxies at different evolutionary stages. We then studied the fundamental physical properties of these distant galaxies by combining the new observations from MeerKAT and the existing observational data from other telescopes — remember that this is one of the best-covered survey fields. The MeerKAT data was collected over nearly 20 hours as part of the MeerKAT International GHz Tiered Extragalactic Exploration (MIGHTEE) project, one of the MeerKAT’s large survey projects prioritised by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO). By combining the emission of light, from these galaxies, we measure how massive, how active, and how bright they appear to be at different radio frequencies, as well as other fundamental physical properties. We then connect the intensities of radio emission with the measured physical properties of these galaxies.
What was the most challenging part of your research? Combining different data from different wavelengths (optical, infra-red, and radio) is the most challenging part of our work. The angular
resolutions of these observations differ by about ten times. It means that a source of emission we see in the radio data might correspond to several different galaxies that are detected at optical or infra-red. Therefore, we must be careful when we combine different kinds of observations to fully utilise the multi-wavelength data richness of the field.
Did COVID-19 have an impact on your research? Yes. It was very hard to discuss the details with my colleagues effectively when we were unable to meet face-to-face.
Was your research impacted negatively or positively as you collaborated with many others from the international community? International collaboration is definitely a positive.
What impact do you believe the MIGHTEE (MeerKAT International GHz Tiered Extragalactic) programme could have in the future of South African astrophysics research? I’d like to comment on the MeerKAT project in general. On the one hand, as a precursor to the SKA (Square Kilometre Array), which is a large international collaborative project, MeerKAT will enhance the international collaboration between astronomers in South Africa and other countries. It is something that draws ideas, talents, and resources into South Africa. On the other hand, South African students will have more opportunities to become actively involved in international research projects. They may be supervised by senior researchers of international standing. Therefore, we can expect astrophysics research in South Africa to flourish over the coming decades.
Do you believe that the MIGHTEE programme can benefit the general public here on earth and if so, how? Certainly. It is no secret that MeerKAT-related projects are benefiting local communities and the public, by providing more jobs, more investment, and educational opportunities. The latter is especially of long-term value. The local communities are key stakeholders in the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) projects, and I believe
that on a deeper level the relation is more mutual than one would imagine. The large projects are not simply there to hand out something to the communities. The reality is that people from all over the world come here to learn from these communities and draw inspiration from them, too. I believe that in time the SKA (Square Kilometre Array) projects will be a venue where the communities’ voices and expressions can be heard internationally.
Could you briefly explain the astronomy data science products you and others used and what impact they had on the programme? I’d like to focus on the MeerKAT data we used in our project. Radio signals at the frequency of 1.3GHz, where the MeerKAT is very sensitive, are dominated by a type of radio emission called, ‘The Synchrotron Radiation.’ These emissions come mainly from the supernovae in galaxies, which represents the number of large stars exploding (i.e. dying) at the moment. This information is key to understanding the evolutional stages of the galaxies.
Who or what inspired you to become an astrophysicist? My high-school physics teacher in China inspired me.
Do you believe the future looks bright for future astronomists in South Africa? Definitely. South Africa is a young country with many bright young minds. She has the backing of the international research community. She holds the land to which these people have a special and deep tie.
“On this land, great projects are taking place. This land is your land, and the future is yours.
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
SIPHE MADYIBI Tell us about the background of your research.
Amiena Bayat, was resilient, refusing to accept
My research builds on what the South African
of. There was a time I switched off my phone for
government promises through its National Development Plan (NDP)-Vision 2030 regarding
anything less than what she felt I was capable two consecutive days avoiding her. When I finally switch my phone, she sends a WhatsApp, calm
Early Learning Opportunities. The NDP commits
as ever, “Dear, please call me,” and so I did.
to make early learning a top priority and dedicate resources to ensure children are cared
Who is your biggest inspiration/What inspires you?
for and receive the necessary development. This
There is so much that still needs to get done
is because prior research has proven that early learning interventions lead to short term and long term gains for both individuals and societies, e.g. better school outcomes, employment and social mobility.
in black communities in terms of uplifting, cultivating
reclaiming the identity of servitude and sacrifice the world saw in the likes of Mama Winnie, Chris Hani, Nelson Mandela and others. So I am
In reality, though, children from economically
both inspired and challenged by my history and
vulnerable backgrounds who stand to gain the
identity as an African.
most through early learning intervention are
What is the funniest/scariest/most embarrassing or best thing that has happened to you as a researcher?
generally accessing low-quality and ill resourced preschools
exacerbating the plight of these children is the government’s unwillingness to provide early learning opportunities, albeit its rhetoric in the NDP.
I collected data in about 20 preschools, but I visited a lot of them and spoke with different people. On this day, I am standing outside the gate at this one preschool; the gate is locked for
What were the motivations for carrying out this research?
safety. The principal stands about a stone throw
I come from an economics background. I hold
am busy explaining my research, and she only
great respect for scholars who research the
hears “school project” and “please help”; then
writings of Adam Smith, Milton Friedman,
starts yelling at me that I am a lazy learner who
David Ricardo and other renowned Western
wants other people to do my schoolwork. Never
economists. But honestly, my heart lies in
had I been so tempted in my life to swear at an
simple, less complicated views of how we can
older person. It is scorching that day; I am tired,
nurture an African brain. How do we solve the
hungry, emotionally exhausted. Overall, it was
problems in our back yards? How do we equalise
not a good day for me.
opportunities and realise freedom in every
Research can be a long and tough journey, what kept you going during this process?
There are certainly lots of lesson you took from your journey, what can you share with an aspiring researcher/post grad student?
I am spiritual or religious, whatever you prefer,
If your research is not giving you sleepless nights
but for me, it means I believe in God and His
and making you doubt your own intelligence,
mighty strength. Positive thinking can only get
you’re not doing it right.
me so far. Thus I prayed and cried a lot, especially
COVID-19 has been a huge challenge in
towards the end. Secondly, my supervisor Prof
away from me on the other side of the gate. I
the society at large, how did you cope with this challenge? By respecting other people’s profession. I am not a medical doctor or scientist. I have fears like every individual, but what does the research say? Which option gives me a higher probability of survival. I must trust the medical profession the same way (maybe even more in this case) that I trust anti-virus software companies. After installation, they send one notification, “you are now protected”, and we believe that.
How was your supervision experience in one word? I can’t do one word but can do a phrase, ‘n Boer maak ’n plan. I would say I don’t know how to use this software, she’ll say learn it. I don’t want to go back to the preschools, go back. It was constantly, get it done!
What are you currently doing (work/ academics)? I am teaching and supervising honours students at the Institute for Social Development, UWC.
What does the future hold for (Siphe Madyibi? I don’t know what it holds, but I’m holding faith and hope (lol). Robert Sobukwe once said, “Education to us means service to Africa.” Besides the prestige and financial security, I want those UWC degrees to produce service for Africa and my community. So I do want to continue teaching, publishing yes and no (I feel like researchers are like old testament prophets lamenting the end, and no one listens to them), which leaves politics and governance. Politics and governance are huge in South Africa, so powerful that they nearly ended this country. In
“I am both
inspired and challenged by my history and identity as an African.
the future, I would like to get into that space and follow just one simple commandment- “Thou shalt not steal” and see what happens.
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
FUNDISWA KHAILE Give us a brief overview of the research you’ve conducted so far?
Why did you apply for the DTS (Developing The Scholar) programme?
Over the past three years, I have researched
I applied for the ‘Developing The Scholar’
various aspects of social cohesion, namely
programme to strengthen my capacity to conduct
trust, sense of belonging, and socio-spatial
research, publish articles, and participate in
justice. Consequently, I have published four
academic conferences. It was my view that this
articles. I’ve also conducted research on Early
programme would enable me to become a well-
Childhood Development (ECD) specifically on
ECD institutionalisation in local government. This research was included chapter
book, “Child in Africa.”
How has the funding helped you with your research? The funding paid for my participation at an
Management (IRSPM) in New Zealand. This funding was useful because, as a developing scholar, I did not have financial resources in my research fund.
What has kept you going during your research process? The DTS programme provided the necessary knowledge as well as emotional support. In particular, the training programmes and mentorships became the pillars that sustained my active participation in research. My family, specifically my husband, is my pillar of strength. He pushes me to get out of my comfort zone.
What personal development have you experienced through this process? One
personal development strengthened my presentation skills. Over the past three years, I have presented papers
conferences. Equally, the programme assisted in understanding and knowing myself better. The module on personal development enhanced my decisionmaking skills and emotional intelligence. I am now able to brand and market myself 8
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
“My advice to any aspiring researcher
would be not to fear being criticised or rejected. The criticism or rejection is not about you but the content of the paper.
appropriately within the academic and research
criticism or rejection is not about you but the
community. Thus, I managed to develop
content of the paper. Also, they must believe in
enduring and transformative partnerships with
their views and opinions. The world is interested
in learning about their ideas and opinions.
Who is/are your biggest inspiration(s)/ what inspires you?
What impact did COVID-19 have on your work?
I am inspired by black women who manage to
COVID-19 made it difficult for me to meet my
succeed against the odds. My supervisor, Prof
collaborators face-to-face. Due to the lockdown
Nicolette Roman, and mentor Prof Michelle
restrictions, I was also unable to attend
Esua are successful and well-rounded scholars in
conferences. Although I presented for two
their own right.
conferences earlier this year, doing so online
What is the funniest/scariest or most embarrassing or the best thing that has happened to you as a researcher so far?
doesn’t exude the same excitement, and I can’t wait for us to go back to normal.
The best that has happened was when I received
What practical impact do you believe your research will bring?
feedback from the reviewers who accepted my
My research contributes towards knowing and
paper with corrections in March 2020. It was the
understanding the concepts of social-spatial
best feeling after being rejected twice.
justice, sense of belonging, social cohesion, and
Which one of your academic articles was the most challenging to write?
finding solutions to these issues.
One of the most challenging papers was titled, “The role of Local Government in Promoting a Sense of Belonging as an Aspect of Social Cohesion.” The stressful part was when the editor kept returning the paper for corrections
What does the future hold for you once you complete your Ph.D.? After completing my Ph.D., I plan to be part of the community of scholars as a rounded conscious, and socially active scholar.
and, the time frame was tight.
What lessons can you share with an aspiring researcher/post-grad student? My advice to any aspiring researcher would be not to fear being criticised or rejected. The
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
ERICK STWEBILE Give us a brief overview of the research you have conducted so far? Earlier this year, a sperm donor and his mother launched an application to obtain contact rights regarding a child born from his sperm. This case brought to light many legal questions for the South African legal profession. Namely, are sperm donor contracts valid, and if so, are they against public policy? Can sperm donors, surrogates, and egg donors have parental rights and responsibilities? These questions have also been raised in Australia. Therefore, I will compare South Africa’s legal position with that of Australia. My main research question is whether children should have the right to know their biological origin, and if so, to what extent can this right be enforced? The future is unpredictable, and I am carefully considering all my options. I am currently pursuing an academic career as a legal scholar. At some point, I might consider going into practice. I also want to start a community project aimed at nurturing the next generation of legal scholars.
Why did you apply for the NESP (Nurturing Emerging Scholars Programme)? Firstly, according to the information on the website, it looked like an amazing programme. I applied because I needed funding to enrol for a master’s degree. However, the programme is not merely funding. It provides one with the tools required to become a scholar. There is also a chance to complete the program overseas. The internship at the end of the master’s period was particularly attractive. I want to pursue a career as a legal scholar.
How has the funding helped you with your research? The funding has enabled me to keep myself well nourished. It has also helped with other living expenses. When a person is well-fed and can cover basic living expenses, it makes the learning and research experience easier. The funding has also enabled me to purchase the electronic devices necessary for my research. The funding 10
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
enables me to pay for my UWC Kovacs residence fees. At Kovacs, I have my own room and quiet study space where I can conduct complete my research. In my room, I have a stable internet connection, allowing me to do research at any time of the day. Obtaining residence on campus also means I have access to the UWC library.
What were the motivations for you carrying out your research? I have always had a passion for family law and realised its importance in our legal system. The area of sperm donations raises complex legal and philosophical questions that must be addressed. Conducting research in this area of law can be of great benefit to the legal fraternity.
What has kept you going during your research process? Just the sheer reward that comes with completing this research. When I complete this
research, I will be rewarded with an internship. And, as I said previously, it is important for the legal fraternity. My drive for success and competitiveness keeps me going. It has not always been easy. Sometimes I struggle with ideas. However, my goals keep me going through the tough times.
Who is/are your biggest inspirations, what inspires you? My family is my greatest source of inspiration. My favourite high school teacher will always be another source of inspiration for me. Competition and the success stories of my friends and colleagues also inspire me. Just the feeling of being involved and executing at the highest level keeps me motivated.
What is the funniest/scariest or most embarrassing or the best thing that has happened to you as a researcher so far? The scariest thing for me is the fear of not giving this research the justice it deserves. It is one of the most interesting yet complex topics I have ever dealt with. A lot of rights and interests are weighed up against each other. The funniest thing was the realisation that research is not a sprint, but a process of patience. The process of reading, brainstorming ideas, understanding the field of study, and the significance of the research project, made me realise that writing on a whim wouldn’t work. The most embarrassing thing is me realising research is a vital part of the legal fraternity. I used to make fun of legal scholars for wasting their time with all these secondary sources, i.e., journal articles. The arguments are never binding but always persuasive. I now realise that research is important as complex legal issues are being highlighted and discussed. Gaps in law are being highlighted and recommendations are provided, and they could be used as solutions.
What lessons can you share with an aspiring researcher/postgraduate student? Be proactive with your intentions and goals. When I enrolled for my postgrad degree, I knew I would do research on family law. However, I didn’t know what I would be researching. I only later found an appropriate topic to research. Read journal articles and attend research or post-graduate webinars because you might find a topic of interest or even a career path. Reach out to other legal scholars, always show up and be present in the moment, and do not worry about perfection. Postgrad is a process, and although you will make mistakes, you will learn from them.
What impact did covid 19 have on your work? COVID-19 had a substantial impact on me personally. Firstly, it hampered my work ethic. At times, I found myself procrastinating on my work, thus becoming a cycle at one point. At the beginning of the year, it prevented me from accessing libraries and other legal minds. It also made it difficult to have face-toface consultations or sessions with other legal scholars.
Describe your supervision experience in one word? I would say the word “enriching” best describes it.
What does the future hold for you once you complete your studies? The future is unpredictable, and I am carefully considering all my options. I am currently pursuing an academic career as a legal scholar. At some point, I might consider going into practice. I also want to start a community project aimed at nurturing the next generation of legal scholars.
“Be proactive with your intentions and goals.” FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
KEANE BAILIE me to complete my master’s degree, and complete my internship. I will be equipped with the necessary tools to become a full-time lecturer.
How has the funding helped you with your research? I’d always wanted to get my master’s degree, and the financing allowed me to do it full- time. Aside from the money, the third-year internship is something I’m extremely excited about. Being fully immersed in the academic world is something I aspire to be part of. The NESP is helping me achieve my dreams.
What were the motivations for carrying out your research? Contributing to the scientific community is my motivation for carrying out my research.
Give us a brief overview of the research you’ve conducted? In terms of research, I haven’t conducted any yet. It is critical to acquire ethical clearance while working with biological material. This guarantees that proper laboratory procedures are followed and that any study conducted is ethical.
Why did you apply for the NESP (Nurturing Emerging Scholars Programme?) I applied for the NESP (Nurturing Emerging Scholars Programme) because it will enable me to achieve my dreams. The programme will enable
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
What kept you going during your research process? I am very fortunate to have an amazing support structure. From my parents to my partner to my friends. Whether it is a kind word over the phone or an ear when I’m frustrated or simply a hug.
How do think your scientific research could practically benefit the public? Hopefully, the research will open a new avenue to positively identify evidence samples with no DNA based evidence.
Who is/are your biggest inspiration(s)/
what inspires you? My greatest source of inspiration is myself. I want to be someone who would make my future self-proud.
What impact did COVID-19 have on your work? It slowed the entire process for me, especially moving from Pretoria to Cape Town.
What is the funniest/scariest or most embarrassing or the best thing that happened to you during your research process?
Describe your supervision experience in one word?
Scariest, is uprooting my entire life from Pretoria to Cape Town, leaving behind most of my support structure.
What does the future hold for you?
What lessons can you share with an aspiring researcher/post-grad student?
In 2023, I will complete my internship with UWC and hope to continue my academic career as a full-time lecturer in addition to completing my Ph.D.
I never expected to receive the NESP award in a million years. My advice would be to take a chance, regardless of how frightening or unclear the future may be.
“Contributing to the scientific
community is my motivation for
carrying out my research.
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
KUKHANYILE MALI Give us a brief overview of the research you’ve conducted so far? The topic of my research is austerity measures, and its impact on infrastructure and economic development in South Africa between 1995-2019. The research that I’ve conducted, thus far, has shown me that in the 1990s ANC-led government envisioned a society where we could deal with the challenges of mass unemployment for the black majority, mass poverty of the black majority, and inequality in South Africa. Historically, large sections of society were excluded from the formal economy, so the government attempted to resolve those challenges that they identified in the 1990s through the adoption of the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Program), GEAR (Growth, Employment, and Redistribution), AsgiSA (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa), the New Growth Path (NGP), and then the NDP (National Development Plan). Although GEAR received much criticism from the allies of the government, it was said to supplement the objectives of RDP. So there have been macro-economic policies that the South African government has pursued since the democratic breakthrough in 1994. However, what I have discovered is that the government has not been able to significantly deal with the challenges that were identified in the 1990s. The ANC government has been in power for 27 years, and yet they still haven’t significantly altered unemployment, poverty, and inequality patterns. This has led to many sections of society being excluded from the economy, with many unable to participate thoroughly in our democracy. The lack of infrastructure development in rural areas and townships has had a dire impact on the South African population at large. This has stalled economic development in South Africa, and that is what I wanted to investigate. I wanted to find out the extent to which these policies have stalled growth and the impact of these policies on the developmental path of the country. Broadly I asked myself, did we take the right path in these macro-economic policies? Were these policies able to deliver promises made within a South African context? In South Africa’s macroprudential macroeconomic stance, should debt reduction and deficit reduction have been the priority at the dawn of democracy? Austerity is a macroeconomic tool associated with macroprudential economic policies. Decades later with debt and deficit 14
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
reduction efforts the government has failed to get on a developmental path that would deal with poverty, unemployment, and inequality. I haven’t yet concluded the study, but from the data collected, I’ll make my conclusion and recommendations, which could benefit the South African people or even help the South African government in understanding the importance of developing our economy and significantly investing in public infrastructure.
Why did you apply for the NESP (Nurturing Emerging Scholars Programme) The reason why I applied for the NESP (Nurturing Emerging Scholars Program) is that I see myself as a scholar, and as someone who wants to learn more. I want to understand different economic systems and theories to deal with South Africa’s developmental challenges. Due to these problems, I felt that if I could equip myself with the necessary skills to positively contribute to South African society at large, I want to be able to do that. The NESP seemed like a perfect fit, and a program that will fund my studies, help me get through my master’s program, get the necessary mentoring support, and help me get on track to register for my Ph.D. and eventually get my doctorate in economics so that I can start writing more, have a more informed view on how we can significantly alter the dreadful trajectory we are currently on. I feel that everything is stuck at the intersection between economics and politics, so I need to be in that space after I get my Ph.D. That’s why when I got the opportunity, I immediately applied because this is the path that I wanted for myself, and I felt as if everything was aligning and helping me go through this path which I decided to choose for myself.
How has the funding helped you with your research? The funding has helped me in various ways. Initially, I was concerned about where I was going to get funding for this year, which forced me to race through my master’s thesis and my fear was that in my quest of getting as much theoretical knowledge and having a theoretical understanding of the different economic concepts, I felt as if in rushing through my thesis I would fail to capture the different economic theories which could help me in my research. Once I was awarded the funding, it took out much of the weight off my shoulders, because I didn’t have to rush through my work. I could
make sure that I submitted quality work and have as much time as possible with research, learn more, develop myself even further, develop my economic capabilities, and my economic skillset. The funding freed me from any hurdles which could have been in my way because housing and tuition are expensive, and this helped me focus squarely on my research.
What were the motivations for carrying out your research? Several things motivated me to pursue my study. Firstly, I come from a working-class background. My mom is an educator, I’ve got two brothers, all of us are in university, so that had a strain on her financially and, although I went to a former Model C school, when I attended university, I attended with a lot of people who went to lower quantile public schools. Many of my university peers came from low-income households, and it made me question a lot of things, including what is going on in our country, and made me realize the economic realities of this world. This forced me to start reading more, to get in touch with the South African reality, and there were a lot of my peers that dropped out of university, and it was difficult for me to understand why. However, I soon realized that we have many problems in our country, including unemployment, poverty, and inequality. All these socioeconomic problems have an origin and a ripple effect on many sections of society. The South African government, since 1994, has adopted various macroeconomic policies, which came with many promises, and all these promises have fallen flat. Now, the government has eggs on their faces because they’ve decided to follow a particular macroeconomic framework along with austerity, and it has not helped the ordinary South Africans who were disenfranchised during the apartheid era. Once I asked myself these questions, I realised that there could be a significant flaw within our economic system. We know that capitalism is riddled with crises, but what is an alternative for us? When I started asking those questions that’s when I started realising that I need to start researching how to develop an economy, and that’s when I began looking at economic development and subsequently economic and social infrastructure. I started looking at the reasons why we chose austerity measures to address our nation’s challenges. It’s a necessity that more minds are at play to address and resolve the economic challenges that we have in South Africa. I’m just one more voice to the many voices and brains
that have the potential to change the situation we’re facing, so that became one of my main motivators pertaining to this question.
You mentioned that you wanted to find ways on how to help poverty, unemployment, and inequality in South Africa’s shrinking economy. Does the basis of that answer lie in a free market economy, a centralized Leninist economic structure, or a mix of both? Firstly, we do know that the free market has not been able to significantly alter the unemployment, poverty, and inequality in South Africa. The neo-liberal paradigm came into South Africa via GEAR (Growth, Employment, and Redistribution), introduced by the ANC in 1996, and over time we saw the free market at play. Even though we were able to bring wealth into the country, we were unable to significantly change unemployment, poverty (besides handing out social grants), and inequality, so capitalism inherently worsens the inequality within a nation. Even though there is no doubt about the fact that it can amass large sums of wealth, the capital accumulation process is proficient within a capitalist system, however, it comes at a great cost excluding large sections of society outside of the formal economy, due to the profit motive within capitalism. Fortunately, in my quest to understand different economic systems, I came across MarxismLeninism and Russian, South African, and Chinese communists. As you read through how they implemented socialism in the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, there were many challenges that they faced, but the one thing that we can take from that is that they were able
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
to change the lives of the poor majority. The challenges that they faced should not necessarily be at the forefront, but rather we should be able to take the good associated with socialist economies and countries. Both capitalist and socialist systems have challenges, both systems have had huge failures at one point, but that’s part of the developmental process and part of developing a system that works for everyone. I think the challenges that capitalism has been experiencing are inherent and will be very difficult to alter the dreadful consequences for the poor. I think if we were to look at a way forward, former Chinese president, Deng Xiaoping, said it best: “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it is able to catch mice.” I think that’s the kind of mentality we as South Africans should have. Our main objective should be to address all the major socio-economic issues which are mainly poverty, unemployment, and inequality. We have seen clearly that the neo-liberal paradigm has not been able to answer that question for us. Perhaps, we should go back and lean to our leftist colleagues and ask them how to structure an economy that works for everyone. The ANC has an alliance partner, the South African Communist Party, and it has the largest trade union in South Africa, COSATU. Surely, they should be able to develop policies that can work for the vast majority of the South African public, particularly the working class. If I were to answer, I would have to phrase it the same way Deng Xiaoping said, the same way China was able to lift over 800 million people out of poverty through socialism with Chinese characteristics, through making sure that they’re able to develop the nation, through their own conditions, and not look at global macro-economic systems, and just follow the trends without considering domestic concerns. I don’t believe we’ve done that as a country. We failed to look at alternative developmental paths, and because of that, we’re in this current mess. Capitalism has not been able to assist South Africa. We need to start looking at more progressive alternatives, to help us with the challenges that we’re facing in this country, and right now what seems more promising would be a left-leaning policy with the primary focus being development. In conclusion, I don’t believe that the solution lies in the free market alone, but I do think that there are components of the free market which could be used with a “centralised Leninist economic structure” to help the South African economy, 16
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
but because I am a communist and Marxist, my orientation would always lead to Marxian economics. I want to negate the inherent flaws of capitalism so that something more progressive and egalitarian develops for the vast majority of South Africans.
Who is/are your biggest inspiration(s)/ what inspires you? (My biggest inspiration) During my undergrad, I was largely motivated by an academic club that I was part of which is the African National Higher Education Fund (ANEF). It helped shape my thinking, understand the fact that we have a problem in South Africa, and that we need a lot of people to think of solutions and it was an academic club that focused on solutions we could bring to significantly alter the current path of South Africa. South Africa has a terrible past and we want to include as many disadvantaged South Africans who were previously excluded from the economy. After I failed my final undergrad year, I was down and in a very dark space. I went to my HOD (Head of Department) and told him that I was passionate about Economics. My HOD at the time, Derek Yu, just said, ‘Look, if this is what you want, this what we’re going to do. Good luck.’ Since then, he’s put me on the right path, advised me on different modules I could take, and that helped me. In my Honour’s year, my mini-thesis focused on labour economics. It gave me incredible insight into the challenges that the working class has in South Africa, and I appreciate him for guiding me and putting pressure on me to do the best that I possibly can. At the ANEF club, our ethos is that we need to get those PhDs, and that is the goal. We have a saying, ‘Ulala njani ungenaPhD?’ (How do you sleep without your Ph.D.?) as well as ‘Success favours the prepared mind’. Some ANEF club members have their Ph.D.’s, and they encourage us to do more and to read more. It was Karl Marx who said it best, ‘Philosophers have only interpreted the world we know in various ways, the point for me is to change it’ and that is where I currently am. I want to develop myself so that I can have the means to change society at large, and that inspires me. I want to change the dreadful situation which the poor and the working class find themselves in right now as a country. It’s disheartening to see the levels of unemployment, poverty, and inequality in this country. The system cannot be amended, it should be broken. We should break this vile system and introduce something that would help most of the people in this country,
particularly the poor and the working class. I think that these factors are huge inspirations for me. The ANEF team, Prof Yu, the Economics department, and most importantly, my mother who has always encouraged me to pursue my studies and do the best that I can do to help this country. My mother always says we are the future, and I don’t want to fail her.
What is the funniest/scariest of most embarrassing or the best thing that happened to you during your research process? I was always afraid of my supervisor. He was my undergrad and postgrad lecturer, and I was always afraid of him because I sucked at Econometrics. When it came to statistical Econometric data, I got a headache, and I used to fear him so much, and when I developed my research topic, my proposal, and my concept note at the same time, low and behold, my worst nightmare was my supervisor. But then it turned out that my supervisor was one of the most understanding people, very insightful, very encouraging, pushing me to challenge myself, and that’s what I appreciate. Throughout the whole process, because of the foundation that I received at honours level, Prof Yu said that we must read every single day, even if it’s one article, and even before that, I was reading almost every single, because of the academic club that I was involved in. All these factors helped me become the person I am today, and it has made the research process easier, and when I went to my supervisor, I was scared, nervous, but he turned out to be a really cool person, Prof Johannes Sheefeni. To me, that became one of the funniest/scariest things that happened to me during this research process.
What lessons can you share with an aspiring researcher/post-grad student? One thing I think all aspiring researchers or postgraduate students should know is that reading is crucial. Whether it’s reading one or two articles a day, or three articles a week, you must continue reading. This includes reading and keeping a balance in your working life, social life, and keeping mentally and physically fit. It’s quite important, and I learned most of these lessons during my undergrad years, where the ANHEF team drilled it into me to read, exercise, keep mentally fit, and be the right space to do
my research effectively. I think that is one of the most important things to share with students. They shouldn’t be afraid because research is a step-by-step process. You can’t get to the finished product without reading, then writing.
What impact did COVID-19 have on your work? COVID-19 didn’t really have much of an impact on my work. I don’t usually attend classes for the Master’s Program. It has deprived me of the opportunity of engaging in different seminars, meeting different academics, people to bounce my ideas off and get different insights. Hopefully, by next year, those opportunities resurface because I believe that the academic process must be rigorous. I need to hear different arguments, debate different topics, have discussions with academics to hone my skills and develop myself even further. That’s one of the most important things for me, and I think COVID-19 has taken that away from me. On the plus side, it has given me more time to be with my family. Because I went to boarding school and then lived on campus, this is my first time staying at home for a protracted-time period. COVID-19 had a positive and a negative impact.
Describe your supervision experience in one word? Very understanding, I think he’s very understanding. That’s what I appreciate. Sometimes we don’t understand how intimidating it is for people of such high stature within our department, the professors, the doctors, they intimate us, and he makes it so easy for us, so he’s amazing.
What does the future hold for you once you complete your studies? Once I complete my studies, I will be doing my Ph.D., after I’m done with my Ph.D., I plan on lecturing – in fact after I’ve completed my master’s degree, I’ll have a lecturing internship for a year – and during that year I’m hoping to register for and start my Ph.D. at the same time so that I can get my doctorate before the age of 30. That’s what the future holds for me. My supervisor and HOD, in jest, always advises me to read a lot of articles, publish work, finish my Ph.D., and maybe one day become a minister of finance. However, I’m just looking at completing my master’s degree, register for my Ph.D., and complete it before the age of 30.
process might seem daunting at first, “Thebut in the end, it will be worth it.” FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
DR. MUJEEB HOOSEN Give us a brief overview of the research you’ve conducted so far? My Ph.D. project aims to develop guidelines on spirituality for the Unani Tibb clinical practice. Unani Tibb is a form of natural medicine that is registered and practiced in South Africa and in many other regions around the world. So far, I have conducted studies on education and practice involving several stakeholders of the profession (students, educators, researchers, regulators, practitioners and patients). This work has been presented at two international conferences, two national conferences, and two E- CPD workshops. Thus far four publications have emanated from this project.
What has kept you going during your research process? The concept of spirituality is an integral component to the wellness of societies globally. On a daily basis, I see its relevance at a personal level, within the community, in the latest research and in clinical practice. This is the strongest motivating factor that guided me through the research process. Knowing that my work will contribute to the wellness of patients and clinicians inspires me to continue.
Why did you apply for the DTS (Developing The Scholar) programme?
Why you think the humanistic approach is important in modern healthcare?
Once I decided to pursue Ph.D. studies, I knew that I needed guidance and support, it was a struggle to find the necessary resources to begin the process. The DTS program was exactly what I needed to motivate and steer me in the right direction. This program mapped the way forward from conceptualization to dissemination whilst instilling motivation, resilience, confidence as well as other personal skills needed for this journey. Prof Jose and her team followed a person-centred approach during every stage of this program. They highlighted the synergy between professional development and personal growth. The DTS program is a wellstructured initiative which addresses many gaps in the existing capacity building process for academics.
The humanistic approach to medicine is characterized by honesty, empathy, compassion, altruism, and respect. These qualities within modern medicine facilitate the healing process in patients. Research has proven that treating the whole individual leads to better health outcomes. The humanistic approach is medicine.
How has the funding helped you with your research? The funding has allowed access to several resources needed for this project. It supported regular learning, teaching and networking events that facilitated the publication of articles, conferences/workshop presentations and community engagement activities. It provided
the expert guidance and research/technical assistance needed to complete the objectives of this project.
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
Who is/are your biggest inspiration(s)/ what inspires you?) I remain inspired by my late parents. Through them, I have learned important life lessons. They taught me to value knowledge, respect life, and honor people.
What was the best part of your research? The best part of my research was meeting people from diverse backgrounds both locally and abroad. These connections have contributed greatly to my personal and professional development, broadening my vision and worldview.
Which one of your academic articles was the most challenging to write? The first article I wrote based on my Ph.D. protocol
was quite a challenge. Under the guidance of my supervisors, I managed to publish this article.
What lessons can you share with an aspiring researcher/post-grad student? Choose a field of study that resonates with your purpose. Select your company wisely, the voices you hear most often become the voices in your head. If you’re around the motivators you’ll definitely move faster.
What impact did COVID-19 have on your work? COVID-19 delayed several processes along the way, but it also created an opportunity for me to look at how my research can contribute to muchneeded wellness during this challenging time. As a result, I co-authored an article alongside my supervisors, titled, ‘Spiritual Care, A Deeper Immunity- A Response To The COVID-19 Pandemic’.
Describe your supervision experience in one word. Encouraging.
What does the future hold for you once you complete your Ph.D.? I plan to disseminate the findings of my project to all stakeholders of the profession. I hope that this work will have an impact at community, national and international level in the field of natural medicine and spirituality.
“The best part of
my research was meeting people from diverse backgrounds both locally and abroad. These connections have contributed greatly to my personal and professional development, broadening my vision and worldview.
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
VUYISANANI AM voice my passion on the topic of toilets and how they affect individuals differently, and NESP is giving me that chance.
How has the funding helped you with your research? The funding has allowed me the freedom to go into spaces and places where I can conduct my research. Purchasing the necessary resources (books) for my research has opened my eyes to the subject of toilets.
What were the motivations for carrying out your research? No one speaks about the ordinary nature of a toilet. It is a space used without thought or question. How can and does such a public and private space impact people differently? The bathroom can be a space of violence, judgment, and ridicule.
Give us a brief overview of the research you’ve conducted so far? My research is still at an embryonic stage, it is still crawling and waiting to take its first baby steps. I am still conceptualizing it and coming up with a research title and method that I will be using. At present, I am still gathering information regarding toilets and the violence found within and around them.
Why did you apply for the NESP (Nurturing Emerging Scholars Programme)? One of my reasons for applying for the NESP (Nurturing Emerging Scholars Programme) was for the internship opportunity you receive. It allows you to be in an environment where growth is accepted. The NESP has allowed me to further my studies, and experience the workspace for a whole year. Not many scholarships grant you this opportunity. I had to grasp at the chance to
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
How can such a simple amenity impact people differently? This is one of the questions I asked myself because we have private and public toilets (public toilets allow entry and exit of the general public). My research was motivated by the struggles my aunt has faced when using portable toilets. Dealing with constant toilet changes, sharing such amenities with multiple individuals, along with the threat of violence, pushed me to conduct this research. The bathroom can be such a violent space, especially for QUEER people, young girls, and women. The use of the toilet was my motivation.
What practical impact do you believe your historical research in LGBTQ+ violence, shoes, and toilets will have in public discourse? A practical impact would be for me to leave people with at least a sense of the daily struggles that young girls, women, and queer individuals face when using the toilet. I believe that my work will leave people with an awareness of how the
No one speaks about the ordinary nature “ of a toilet. It is a space used without thought
or question. How can and does such a public and private space impact people differently?
bathroom as a private space, has been turned into a public space for those who only have access to portable toilets. We use the toilet every day, but the toilet space is not the same for every individual (it’s a sight of fear, violence and for others, it is a space to bond with others). My hope is to start conversations around the toilet and the impact this space has on the LGBTQ+ community.
Who is/are your biggest inspiration(s)/ what inspires you? My biggest inspirations are my mama and my sister. My mama was a kind, loving person (still strange to write down was instead of is). She was grateful for every day, every month, and every year she received. She would say, “Ndimfumene u2021 nam” (Find me at 2021) she was grateful for the small blessings life gave her. She taught me to be kind and thankful. My sister inspires me, we went through dark times together, and she left school for our family. We wouldn’t be the people that we are today without each other. Tough decisions had to be made, and we made them together, but she carried the brunt of the weight while I was starting with my studies. I would say my mama and sister are my inspiration.
What is the funniest/scariest or most embarrassing or the best thing that happened to you during your research process? I wish I had a funny story to tell about dogs or frogs chasing me, but sadly I do not. I am still in the early stages of my research, therefore I have not been able to go out and interview people and have experiences to share.
What lessons can you share with an aspiring researcher/post-grad student? ‘Look after your mental health.’ These words have stuck with me since I started my honours. Nothing is more important than looking after ones’ mental health. If you are not mentally healthy, your work will suffer. If you are not okay, speak to a friend, colleague, or family member. In addition to your mental health, work smart, and be kind to yourself, the world is cruel enough as it is.
What impact did COVID-19 have on your work? (The virus that shall not be named) has slowed down my work. Although I had plans to conduct interviews, I had to push that idea aside for a while. I went through a period where reading and writing became impossible. That took a toll on me mentally because you have all this work waiting for you, but you lack the motivation to do it. That also impacted me tremendously.
Describe your supervision experience in one word? Caring.
What does the future hold for you once you complete your studies? The world is my oyster (joking). I am hoping to do my Ph.D. and hopefully become a researcher. I hope the future is kinder, with more opportunities for growth and life experiences. More than anything else, getting my Ph.D. is the goal for the next few years of my life, and watching The Matrix for the 50th time, of course.
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
PROF CAROLINA ODMAN realised that most kids, especially Black kids, are often stuck learning maths and science in their second or third language. This barrier to access to science is daunting. How do young people who are passionate about science share their passion with their families? How can they convey that a career in science is a viable option if there isn’t even a word for “Astronomer”? Dr. Conana in the Faculty of Science introduced me to Dr. Mokapela in the Department of Xhosa and we joined forces. Masters students in linguistics Mr Nobom and in astronomy Mr. Mofokeng worked together to create a proper Xhosa translation of a couple of our resources and we learnt many things about language creation in the process.
Research can be a long and tough journey, what kept you going during this process?
Tell us about the background of your research. I am lucky to sit at the nexus of science (Astronomy), outreach and development. In my work, I try to establish new models of outreach and ensure that science is connected to development as directly as possible. As we have seen with the pandemic, science plays a big part in our ability to tackle global challenges, but not without effective communication and outreach. Communities need to be part of the process and trust that science is a public good. We have a lot of work to do on that.
What were the motivations for carrying out this research? I was in the process of creating a careers resource for learners about Astronomy, and wanted to make the resource available in as many languages as possible. I thought surely a careers document doesn’t have too much technical vocabulary and should be easy to translate. But I was very wrong! That’s when I started looking into the numbers of young people who speak English or Afrikaans as a first language and
DVC: RESEARCH & INNOVATION MAGAZINE
My motivation comes every day when I see our students, so talented and resourceful, learning science and wanting to make a difference. Our work is really just about enabling them to have the biggest possible impact. For nearly two decades South Africa has invested in young people in astronomy through the National Astronomy and Space Science Programme (NASSP) and the SKA Africa (now called the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory – SARAO) bursary programme. We are seeing real change in the astronomy community with young leaders in the field emerging and redefining what it means to be a scientist, not just here, but on the global stage as well. They are changing the landscape and each one of them is a role model for more young people to join the ranks of South African science.
Who is your biggest inspiration/What inspires you? I have many sources of inspiration. I have mentioned our students already. I also have a group of female friends, all in STEM fields, who inspire me every day with their grit, resilience and hard work. I am lucky to be part of the InspiringFifty network in South Africa and it is full of amazing women in STEM. Another source of inspiration is my family. I draw inspiration from my husband’s wisdom and from our children’s curiosity about the world and hunger for
knowledge. I feel humbled by the role of mother and partner and am ever so grateful for our beautiful family.
You were recently honoured at NSTF-32 National Science and Technology Forum awards. Tell us about the award. The Communications award means a lot. It is the strongest possible validation of my approach to my work, which doesn’t really fit into any traditional boxes – part academic, part outreach. The award is also the result of the fantastic support I have received within UWC, and at the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy where I work. Outreach and Development are often not at the centre of scientific research programmes, but by investing in it, the Institute and the University show their commitment to impacting communities.
What did the award mean to you personal and professionally? Personally, I am still somewhat overwhelmed. South Africa has a lot of excellent scientists and science communicators, and their work is critical to enabling our society to benefit from the science that is done here. So being awarded the NSTF-South32 award is a great honour. Professionally I hope this will help me disseminate the methodologies and new approaches to development and outreach that we have been able to pioneer, and I can say that already, I am gaining new colleagues and new collaborations, which I am very excited about.
There are certainly lots of lesson you took from your journey, what can you share with an aspiring researcher/post grad student? Most students I talk to today impress me a lot. I wish I had been half as wise when I was that young! Becoming a scientist is one of the things I am most grateful for in my life, and a big lesson is that nobody’s journey is without hiccups. When we see successful scientists we often imagine that their journey must have gone smoothly. That is never the case. So what I would like to share with aspiring researchers today is that set backs are never final, and that a career is a long game and the path is never straight. Even with a few years doing something else, a scientific mind remains a scientific mind and a
fantastic asset for life.
COVID-19 has been a huge challenge in the society at large, how did you cope with this challenge? The pandemic has slowed down our work a lot. We were hoping to test and validate our translated resources in schools when the lockdown happened. Now there are priorities in making sure that schooling happens at all, so adding research to the already extra large workload on teachers will just have to wait. Otherwise, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I can work from home easily and even if things are not happening as fast as we would like (home-schooling was a full time job almost!), we are all on the same boat. I try not to lose the big picture, and make the most of the situation. Being all together at home during lockdown has made us develop family bonds that our busy commuting lives of before made impossible. I am truly grateful for that extra family time.
What does the future hold for Prof Odman? I wish to continue what we have started. If an African scientific vocabulary can be built for the whole curriculum, and it can be adopted at school, who knows how many more brilliant young minds will become the scientists of tomorrow. I have learnt to be patient. Sometimes it takes 15 years but when we look back we can be proud of how much we have managed to do. My UWC journey is relatively young, I joined in 2018, but I really feel completely at home since day 1, and I hope I can give as much as possible to the University, and to the students. UWC feels like family to me, and you may have noticed, family is really important to me.
My motivation comes “every day when I see our students, so talented and resourceful, learning science and wanting to
make a difference.
FUTURE RESEARCHERS @ UWC
Please send your feedback and suggestions to: Dr. Lwando Mdleleni Tel: 021 959 4187 Email: email@example.com Cover image: www.shutterstock.com