Earlier this year I obtained my Master of Arts Degree and began making arrangements for my PhD registration. I had anticipated to register during the 2021 academic year. This was before I was offered three part-time jobs in three different universities. If I took these jobs, I thought to myself, combined they would make up a salary equivalent to a full-time lecturing job, and I would finally enjoy some measure of upward economic mobility. The thought of so many job offers within a very short space of time was thrilling for me.  It made me quickly think a PhD would do so much more.

However, in accepting these job offers, I did not think about the work load, and other factors that would affect my ability to be productive. I thought only of material accumulation. This for me was the materialization of my Masters degree. I deserve it, I was convinced it is my big break after the two long and tiring years I spent working on my Masters. Ironically, in a month I barely make R15 000 and it makes me question this materialization and the need for a PhD. Although, I am cognizant of all the factors which go into part-time staff’s remunerations, when one does not see the materialization of qualifications they quickly become oblivious and indifferent to these other factors. And this is me right now.

Thus, I am now conflicted, I am at limbo. I wonder if there is a need to pursue a PhD when I am unable to afford a small car, and a proper apartment while working for 3 universities simultaneously. I am weighing the value of my education against its materialization, my education level against my buying power. If my academic qualifications do not materialize into desired upward economic mobility, does it mean my education does not have value? Can and should the value of my education be measured in terms of the material accumulation and upward economic mobility it affords me?

Does it mean that the inability of my education to materialize as I had hoped renders it ‘valueless or unimportant? I suppose my question is, how do we value or at least weigh up academic qualifications? Are they valued by the money one earns upon successfully obtaining a certain degree? Is it about the skills one acquires to improve the way things are done and to contribute significantly to society’s growth, and actively participating in the economy? Is it the accumulation of knowledge which allows one to be in the service of humanity? Or is there something else, perhaps an unknown scale which determines the value of one’s qualification.

After it is all said and done, I know getting a PhD coupled with the experience I have already obtained in the teaching and learning space of higher institutions of education will come in handy someday. But how do I fully engage myself in academics for the next three years studying towards a Doctoral degree when a masters degree I was hopeful will keep me afloat barely does.  In pursuing my masters degree, I was worried by the future, which is now, today. Now I must worry again about the future. Am I in a rat race? When will the future that I hope for come?

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