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23 April 2024 | Story Precious Shamase | Photo Supplied
Dr Motsekiso Letuma
Dr Motsekiso Letuma.

The University of the Free State (UFS) Qwaqwa Campus celebrated the graduation of one of its lecturers, Dr Motsekiso Letuma from the Department of Education, Policy and Comparative Education in the Faculty of Education. Dr Letuma's journey to a doctorate culminated in the successful defence of his PhD thesis on 20 April 2024.

Driven by ambition and friendly competition

The academic’s initial motivation stemmed from a practical desire for career advancement. He recognised a PhD as a key qualification for academic positions. After observing university job postings prioritising candidates enrolled in doctoral programmes, he decided to pursue his own PhD.

However, another factor played a role. During his honours studies at the UFS in 2011, he forged strong bonds with fellow students. Upon returning from working abroad in 2019, he discovered that a friend had secured a university position after completing a PhD.  "There was a sense of jealousy," Dr Letuma admitted. "I felt the need to keep up with my friends, and a PhD seemed like the answer."

Despite his initial motivations, Dr Letuma's research yielded valuable insights into classroom management. Working in a challenging school environment after returning from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he focused his research on disruptive classroom behaviour. This research deepened his understanding of effective student engagement strategies.

Striking balance

Balancing research with teaching and personal life proved demanding. "There were sacrifices," Dr Letuma acknowledged. "I had to neglect some relationships, which can be difficult."

Still, he persevered. "Many have done this before me," he said. "I learned to cope and find a balance." Dr Letuma also credited the university's support system. "The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offered valuable professional development programmes," he noted. The Centre for Graduate Support also provided resources, including writing retreats and workshops, which further align with Vision 130's commitment to student success.

Empowering the next generation

Looking ahead, Dr Letuma envisions fostering a dynamic learning environment. "I want to encourage students to delve deeper, participate in discussions, and develop critical thinking skills," he shared.

In a speech filled with warmth, Dr Mdodana-Zide – Dr Letuma’s supervisor – congratulated Dr Letuma, praising his unwavering commitment throughout his doctoral journey. Dr Mdodana-Zide went on to say that Dr Letuma's achievement is a beacon for future generations on the Qwaqwa Campus, fostering a culture of academic excellence. Moreover, Dr Letuma's research directly contributes to Vision 130 by providing valuable insights into classroom management, ultimately improving educational quality – a central pillar of the university's future vision.

Dr Letuma's journey exemplifies the dedication and perseverance required for academic achievement. His success is a testament to the combined forces of ambition, camaraderie, and institutional support.

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