In the beginning were my parents, both from the Eastern Cape and both educators. Then there was my sister and me at the same time (they were never ready) but we did it anyway. Not long after that my younger siblings were born in different years though, they were not into the whole twinning thing my sister and I went for.
I grew up in the Eastern Cape, did most of my schooling there from primary school until Masters Level. I completed my Masters in Agricultural Extension at the University of Fort Hare in 2017. In 2018, I decided to brave the world and move to Kwa-Zulu Natal to pursue my PhD in Agricultural Extension. Due to my involvement with the Agricultural and Rural Development Research Institute (ARDRI), I worked closely with smallholder farmers capturing and documenting their wealth of knowledge in order to pass it on to future generations. But that is a story for another day…
Research was not an obvious choice for the “young” me going into tertiary education. I did not even know research was something people do, let alone consider it as a career choice. I just thought all lecturers and professors were teachers like my parents; just that they taught adults and not children, hence some were called professors. I mean who understands what a “professor” does in primary school except for the guy who is a musician who goes by the name “Professor”.
Merriam Webster 2019 defines research as an “investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws”… Definitely not what I had in mind growing up. Children in school are taught that when you are investigating something you are doing “homework” and sometimes that homework is referred to as an “assignment”. During my undergraduate years investigating a particular matter was still referred to as “doing an assignment” It was only when I started working on my Honors project that it dawned on me what research is and how intricate and captivating it is, only then was I able to differentiate between homework and research.
Since starting my academic journey, I have come to appreciate the importance of research and community engagement. Thanks to postgraduate studies I now know that it is possible to have the best idea that can solve a community’s problem but if that plan is not inclusive of the people socio-economic situations i.e. if the idea is not people orientated it has high chances of failing. I now know that ideas and projects, particularly in agricultural extension, do not fail because we, as researchers, do not plan carefully or work hard to ensure completion but they fail when we plan for the communities rather than planning with them. Therefore, research alone does not save the world, but the world’s problems have a higher chance of being solved by research.