An open letter to my academic father

Dear Father

I write to you not only as your student but as one among the many young men and women whose lives have changed because of your presence. I write to you because out of every helping hand I will receive in my academic life, you are most probably going to receive the least amount of recognition for all your big and small efforts. You have mastered the art of molding us and then standing back to watch us shine without

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Prof with my sister and I.

expecting anything in return. It’s about time I used my words to shift the spotlight in your direction.

 The greatest gift you have given me – and others like me – is  believing in me even when I wasn’t sure  what to  believe about my future. The last time I saw you, your parting words were “work hard”. I know there was more to them than I perceived. “Work hard” was your way of saying “nothing must put you down, stay focused and the ultimate goal is that science must prevail” (saying this in your voice). Most importantly what I have perceived is that at the finish line you be waiting for me; though on my not-so-straight path to the finish line you will be cheering me on.

Of course, like a father, you did not turn a blind eye to my faults and mistakes. There is a proverb that says “A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible”. Truth be told there are times your disciplinary measures have saved me from myself, there are also instances where it has made me a better person — particularly as a young professional. For that, I thank you. I can only strive to be sensible enough to accept your discipline though I may not understand it sometimes (well most of the time). I guess what I am trying to say is you’re doing an amazing job.

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I may not fully comprehend the burdens that come with being as a supervisor, mentor and father because you carry them so well. At times, I ponder on the thought of referring to you as comrade where I imagine your slogan would be “Science Must Prevail.” I also think you are well in your right to write a book, one which I imagine the title would be “The chronicles of raising world changers: one student at a time” and when you publish it, I will be more than willing to accept the cheque for helping you with the title (I’m joking). I  hope to  make you an academic grandparent one day, you know – graduate a PhD student of my own- but for now I can only work as hard as I can to achieve that and more.

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He calls us his “vegetables”…

Dear Father, You are appreciated.

WOMEN – Working Overtime MAN!!

In a world marred with an array of problems, which range from environmental to personal, my thoughts this month are centred on the challenges we face as women. Our role has indeed evolved through the ages. From singing struggle songs and marching the streets, to fighting for our rights, and finally, commemorating “imbokodo” – the strong woman. As we celebrated Mother’s day in May, we rejoiced the women who have played a pivotal role in raising us to become the women we are. Numerous examples come to mind, from sisters, to friends, family and our role models. We reflect on the victories won by these women, raising children, modelling life and career guidance, all in the hopes that you learn from their lives in every sphere! However, in the same breath, inner conflicts and societal issues plague us.

Women in Science TUTThe question then becomes what role do we play where we can empower each other and assist in going through life’s problems. I see one important step as advocacy through creating societies, forums and communities, in the institutions we are in. These can become a lifeline for those that need a helping hand. The Women in Science Forum at the Tshwane University of Technology is an example of such a fraternity, comprising both aspiring and already-established female scientists, whose plea is, for women to make a change, no matter how small, wherever they are, not only in science, but in a broader scope. We’ve created a sisterhood that aims at ensuring overall personal growth by conducting self development workshops, scientific engagements but most importantly mentorship. Our hope is that this forum impacts the way that women are seen, but most importantly, act as a safety net for them to come to.

Our plight as a nation is rooted in our history, which has seen women break out of the mould, from  being a care givers, to becoming career women. The advancement, albeit slow, has resulted in many of us being able to freely choose to be what we want to become. However, it saddens me to see so many stories of the torment against women blooming at every turn, of their torment at the hands of the wicked.  These strifes, we bare at the hands of the men in our nation. To be violated emotionally, physically and sexually – that is not the future we envisage for South Africa. Even more-so, when the Minister, who is meant to be the voice of reason and protector of these rights, throws women to the lions!  Does our future look bleak? Enough is enough! This is the united voice of many women and men across the world as they march the streets, hoping to be heard. NOT IN MY NAME they said! Yes! NEVER!women in Science 2

Women — and the men who support them — must never forget that they too have a voice that must be heard. Enough is enough! The future of a nation begins in a woman’s womb. It is this life-giving spirit we must nurture too, to ensure that the backbone of our country isstrong. Breaking this beautiful spirit, physically or emotionally, has a ripple effect. Lest we forget where we have been, let us remember who we are and what we want to become, in order to make our society one that strives towards holistic wellbeing. Treat people how you would like to be treated!