Agony and Ecstasy all Part of the PhD Study Story

Dr Phiwe Nota and Dr Yonela Vukapi.
Dr Phiwe Nota and Dr Yonela Vukapi.

Students from the Centre of Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) Dr Yonela Vukapi and Dr Phiwe Nota can attest to the joy and agony involved in earning a PhD in Media and Cultural Studies.

Professor Eliza Govender who also supervised them for their honours degrees supervised them both at UKZN.

Their ‘never-ending story’ began in 2013, when they both did honours degrees within the School of Applied Human Science. One of the key challenges they had to overcome was the realisation that the level of work ethic for honours was very high. Writing academically also proved to be challenging as it demanded critical and independent thinking.

The two best buddies rose to the challenge, committing themselves to more reading to help strengthen their writing skills.

Being part of CCMS not only taught them the value of hard work but also the importance of collegiality. Working with this understanding has led to them achieving within the College of Humanities and at international conferences.

‘Among the proudest moments in my seven years at CCMS was receiving all of my postgraduate degrees – honours, masters and now PhD – under my supervisor Professor Eliza Govender.

The international conferences at which I presented my research are among my proudest experiences,’ said Nota.

Nota’s research explores the integration of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) into sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) services as HIV prevention technologies. This study demonstrated that a context-specific and culturally relevant model for oral PrEP integration in SRH services will be necessary in local clinics.

‘There are several localised cultural and social factors that will affect oral PrEP acceptance, uptake and adherence in communities, and these factors will vary from setting to setting,’ explained Nota, who continues to pursue research interests in Public Health and Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare for young women.

For Vukapi, the ‘CCMS is an academic space, yet it was “a home-away-from-home” for most of us. I treasure being given the opportunity to grow through practical experience and being nurtured by senior lectures and professors.’

Her research explores the impact of Youth Friendly Services (YFS) in primary health care clinics as a tool for effective Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) care among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Acknowledging the high prevalence rates of HIV among AGYW is crucial; however, the crux of her research is the inclusion of AGYW’s voices in the design of YFS within primary health care clinics. Investigating YFS from the perspective of AGYW is imperative. As a key vulnerable population to HIV and other SRH challenges, exploring the role of YFS in primary health care clinics and its role in influencing AGYW for HIV prevention and SRH care services is essential.

The two scholars were thankful for the support they got at CCMS. Through sharing knowledge and learning from astute academics Nota and Vukapi have become custodians of their own study journey and walking this road with their favourite supervisor has and will continue to be a journey of growth and inspiration for them.

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