University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) staffer Dr Nontobeko Buthelezi graduated with a PhD in Psychology for her research into the Afrocentric paradigm in understanding student success at the Institution’s College of Humanities.

Her study facilitates the emergence of conceptual schemes or models that could inform a framework for understanding the first-year student’s success at a university in KwaZulu-Natal. Buthelezi emphasised that a participatory methodology gave voice to the marginalised and the dominant worldviews of the diverse first-year university students.

The findings of the study showed that the lived-experiences of students were diverse and dynamic and embraced a combination of African and Western values, ideologies, and practices.

‘Even though institutions of Higher Education in South Africa, such as UKZN have progressive policies, it is crucial to constantly profile students and engage with them, especially in their first year. It helps to demystify inherent negative ideologies about identities, campus life and address particular identifiable students’ concerns and challenges to ensure successful socio-academic integration and easy alignment between the student-institutional expectations,’ said Buthelezi.

She encountered a number of dissenting debates on her research topic specifically on the ‘Afrocentric paradigm’ in different academic circles. ‘It forced me to broaden my knowledge and interest in the complexities of the lived experiences of the African people.’

For Buthelezi’s study, she was funded by SANTRUST, UKZN Teaching and Learning Grant and the National Institute of the Humanities and Social Sciences – South African Humanities Deans’ Association National Research Foundation (HIHSS-SAHUDA).

Buthelezi thanked her family, colleagues and friends for their support. They have touched my life and have been reservoirs of strength, hope and encouragement.’

She now plans to publish some aspects of her PhD thesis and continue working on journal articles.

To other researchers and students, Buthelezi said, ‘Completion of the study is inevitable provided you set realistic goals and put immense effort to accomplish your daily tasks. Integrating key life roles in your short and medium term plans can lead towards your fulfilment as a holistic being beyond just being a scholar.’

Words: Melissa Mungroo