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09 October 2020 Photo Supplied
Kgalalelo Motlhabane
A Master of Commerce degree with specialisation in Industrial Psychology will be conferred on Kgalalelo Motlhabane, a graduate and funding officer at the Postgraduate School at UFS on Friday 9 October 2020 in a virtual graduation.

One of the success stories of this year’s virtual graduation is Kgalalelo Motlhabane, a graduate and funding officer at the Postgraduate School, University of the Free State (UFS), who was presented with an award from the National Research Foundation as the best designated authority for 2019.

Motlhabane, who lost her mother when she was in high school, didn’t just have to overcome poverty on her way to her first qualification, but also the fear of ending up on the street. On Friday 9 October she received a Master of Commerce degree with specialisation in Industrial Psychology.

A lot of challenges

“I had a lot of challenges during my first-year undergraduate studies. I could not afford textbooks and stationery. I spent most of my time in the library studying. More often I would be without food and proper clothes to wear.

“I would get warnings from my landlord when the rent was late. Sometimes I would find my room locked and my personal stuff removed. Not being able to pay outstanding fees restricted me from receiving my final results at the end of semesters and exacerbated the situation,” says Motlhabane.

Regardless of all these challenges, she was determined to not give up and return home to the impoverished community of Itireleng village near Pampierstad in the Northern Cape.

Overcoming the challenges

It was actually the distress, poverty and the difficult situation at home, together with her daily struggles that kept her focused. Through hard work, she managed to receive funding from NSFAS for her second and third years and despite the hardships, she obtained her BSocSci degree with distinction at the end of 2012.

“I was then selected to enroll for an Honours degree in Industrial Psychology in 2013. Without any funding prospects for my studies, I wrote to the former university rector Prof Jonathan Jansen, seeking financial assistance.

“Prof Jansen was very impressed with my exceptional academic performance and offered to pay my fees. He also offered me a position to work as a student assistant. I worked for three hours every day before going to the library to do my assignments and prepare for classes, presentations, tests and exams. I completed my Honours degree in 2013.”

In 2014, Motlhabane was employed as an intern at the UFS Human Resources Department and also enrolled for a postgraduate diploma in gender studies, which she obtained at the end of that year. The following year she joined the postgraduate school and started with her Master’s degree in late 2016.

Obtaining a Master’s degree

This was no easy task as she was employed full time which left her with little time to work thoroughly on her thesis, her limited knowledge about research, work pressures and demands, rejections, lack of support, discouragements, accidents and the inability to cope also played a role.  

“I would like to thank God for the strength he gave me to cope throughout my journey, my family for their prayers and continued support, as well as Prof Jonathan Jansen, Prof Petrus Nel and Prof Ebben van Zyl for their kind support and contribution towards my studies. Indeed, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” says Motlhabane.

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