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How to make a PhD even longer

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A PhD journey is, by necessity, a long one, and for many the time between thesis marking and the wearing of the funny hat in Jammie Hall, is, by preference, as short as possible. This was not the case, however, for Dr Chao Mulenga, who put her family’s interests above her own academic need to graduate.

Dr Mulenga, who is attached to the Section of Organisational Psychology in Commerce, completed her thesis on Occupational Health Psychology (An explanatory model of antecedents and outcomes of the health and safety climate in the South African Construction Industry). In total the doctoral route took 5 ½ years.

She found out that she would be awarded her doctorate shortly before the June graduation – but there was not enough time to organise for her beloved family to attend, so she delayed her graduation date by six months to accommodate them.She explained; “My family have supported me on this long journey. I could not see myself walking onto the stage in the Jammie Hall without a single member of my family making a noise for me in the crowd!”

Fortunately the time lapse enabled her family to overcome geographical inconveniences to celebrate her special day.Her daughter, a UCT graduate, Mukuka Mulenga-Bwalya and son-in-law, Dennis Bwaylya (A UCT Mechanical Engineering alumnus) and her grandchildren Chilela Bwalya (5) and Temwani Bwalya (2) arrived from Lusaka, Zambia for the ceremony. Her eldest daughter, a vet in Johannesburg, Dr Ida Mulenga, also made the journey for grad as well as her two brothers and their wives. “I’m so proud of you,” said an admirer. “I’m so proud of myself,” said Dr Mulenga.

Story By : Carolyn McGibbon

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