Mr Ntsikelelo Pefile
PhD in Health Sciences recipient, Mr Ntsikelelo Pefile.

Current interventions, factors, barriers, and facilitators influencing employment outcomes for persons with spinal cord injuries (PWSCI) in KwaZulu-Natal were investigated for a doctoral degree.

The research work secured former UKZN lecturer Mr Ntsikelelo Pefile a PhD in Health Sciences (Rehabilitation).  ‘I feel relieved, excited and proud of myself,’ said Pefile. ‘I am very grateful to the College of Health Sciences for the support I received from staff at the Department of Physiotherapy and the School of Health Sciences office.’

Supervised by Professor Saloshni Naidoo and Professor Joyce Mothabeng, Pefile says

his study findings support the development of an ‘interprofessional model’ to guide employment outcomes for PWSCI.

‘This model encourages stakeholders to develop and implement activities that promote employment and education outcomes for PWSCI in various care settings, involving all relevant sectors while prioritising early intervention.’

Pefile says his aim is to contribute to alleviating the poverty of people with disabilities in South Africa.

In the development of protocol, he said he had to ‘unlearn’ what he thought he knew about research. ‘I am grateful to Professor Moses Chimbari for allowing me to participate in the Protocol Development Workshop in Botswana under the SASCAL project.’

He says he struggled to get full ethical approval due to delays in getting gatekeeper permission. ‘Obtaining gatekeeper approval took me 18 months as hospital administrators did not have time to respond to my application.

‘Data collection was a nightmare as my study was community-based. I had to deal with other contextual factors before I could obtain the information I needed from participants. I then collected too much data and I did not set reachable parameters and scope for the PhD,’ said Pefile.

‘Data analysis became a nightmare as I had both quantitative and qualitative data so I used my NRF funding to employ research assistants to help.’

Deaths in the family weighed heavily on him. ‘I lost my son, mom and sister and other family members during this time. I thank my colleagues at the Physiotherapy Department for their support – they became my pillars of strength,’ said Pefile.

‘I can write a book about the support I received from the various sectors of this university.  UKZN leads in postgraduate education and that’s why I will fight to remain associated with this university even though I am no longer employed their full time.’

Pefile, currently a senior lecture in the Department of Physiotherapy at Stellenbosch University, enjoys reading, jogging and travelling.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini

Photograph: Supplied