I am starting to believe that July is my lucky month because I always have something to celebrate during this time of the year. Last year in July, I was featured on one of my favourite luxury lifestyle television shows, Top Billing.
This year’s celebration came as surprise to me, when I was told that I passed my Masters Dissertation without corrections on Friday 19 July. Coincidentally, I had a coffee date on the Monday the 15th, who had already received her Masters and she told met about the possibility that I may have passed really well given how long the marking took. Often examiners have to reach some agreement on whether you qualify for a first or not if your research was outstanding. This got me so excited!
For those of you who are new to my blog, I first enrolled for a full-time Masters of Philosophy in Human Rights Law (MPhil) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2016. I had come from an occupational therapy background (graduated in 2014 at UCT) hence I enrolled for an MPhil and not a LLM and I was never exposed to law academically until my Masters degree. However, I was accepted into the programme because I had a good undergraduate GPA and I was able to motivate why I wanted this degree so bad. As I was born on human rights day, I had always found the topic of human rights very intriguing and I wanted to learn more about the importance of having rights in society.
What really led me to this degree was an experience I encountered while I was working as a community service occupational therapist in the Free State province in 2015. We used to go out into the surrounding clinics to provide rehabilitation services to the community. During one of our clinic visits, there were a number of primary schools learners who came into the clinic one afternoon and they had been referred to us for assessment and intervention. I immediately felt overwhelmed because:
- a) I was on a contract for a year with no promises of it being renewed.
- b) We only visited the clinic every two weeks, for only 2-3 hours and providing a focused comprehensive assessment (which normal takes an hour) plus interventions would be a challenge to monitor. We also had other patients to see and you can imagine that time was an issue.
- c) The schools did not have any form of support for the learners, so this left us at the time, as the main service providers for these learners.
I had a choice of doing a desk based research or field research. However, the research topic I chose required field research and I ended up having to conduct the research at five schools in Cape Town and interviewed the school principals, teachers and the support staff at these schools (remedial teachers, occupational therapists. That was not easy at all, but I learnt so much out of this experience and I will share a bit more in another post. At times I felt like giving up because I had to everything myself, interviews, the transcribing and writing and editing. But every time I thought of those children and how our education system fails them on a daily, I felt empowered to make my research count for something. I was not interested in getting a degree for the sake of it, it had to have meaning and purpose and advocate for these marginalised voices in society.
If it were not for this degree, I would have not started my blog or my business, so I am grateful I took this challenge, as it opened room for more opportunities for me to explore with my creativity.
I eventually submitted my research for marking this year in February and I cannot explain how relieved I was.
When I finally got an email from our Dean with my mark, I almost collapsed and I could not believe that this journey had finally ended for me and on such a positive note. I thought of all the sacrifices I had to make to get this degree, such as quitting a full time job to move back to Cape Town and then having to find another job to pay my fees in case I did not get a scholarship (which I ended up getting). I was also fortune to get a full-time job that supported me and I had to balance this with my full time studies, as I still wanted to make money from my first degree (a focused queen). The first year was a challenge, but I enjoyed it as I primarily focused more on the coursework. I had to attend lectures twice a week and I would have bibles of work to read afterwards until about midnight and still have to wake up early for work.
I thought of all those long days and the nights spent reading and trying to understand law, the weekends and social life that I gave up to focus on my studies. When I saw the Dean’s email on Friday 19 July I cried for a second and decided to drive home to my mommy that evening. Everything started to make sense and I felt that my efforts and the hard work that I put into my research were finally acknowledged. As I was only left with my thesis marks to pass, passing this paper meant that I could now get ready to prepare my seShoeShoe (shweshwe) dress for the graduation ceremony.
One of the teachers I interviewed, said this to me when I asked her what she thought of inclusive education and support for learners in schools: “We have made it on the journey, but we have not yet arrived.” This basically summed up the findings of my research. Another teacher said that “…every learner has the right to learn and to be supported and there should be no discrimination in supporting learners.”I will share a link once my research is published. Feel free to contact me should you require further information on this topic or if you would like to ask me more questions on any career related topics. I’m here to support you too. Until next time: Live, Love and Learn. xoxo Mapitso Thaisi