School of Education

Teacher-Student Duo Graduates with PhD

Drs Zanele Zama and Thabile Zondi share a moment at graduation.
Drs Zanele Zama and Thabile Zondi share a moment at graduation.

Teacher-student duo, Drs Zanele Zama and Thabile Zondi are elated to have graduated with their PhDs in Education and Geography, respectively – owing much of their success to hard work and determination.

Having met in 1995, Zama was a primary school teacher at Bhongo Primary School, while Zondi was a humble and hard-working learner at the time in her Grade 2 class. Sadly after this year, Zondi changed schools because her family was relocating.

After 1995, the pair never saw each other again until Zondi greeted Zama at one of the UKZN libraries 19 years later. ‘I did not recognise her initially because it had been  19 years since I last saw nor heard from her, so I was so excited to see her,’ said Zama who in 2014, was writing up her master’s thesis.

‘Through our conversation, I discovered that she was a certified high school teacher at Adams College – Amanzimtoti and she was also a master’s candidate at UKZN,’ she added.

They then started using each other as sounding boards in their writing journeys, and although Zama was a hard worker herself, she realised that her former Grade 2 learner was well read, and provided some much needed assistance as Zama struggled to wrap up her study, which is when they both realised how the roles had switched – the former learner had now become a research coach.

They provided each other with enormous research support during their master’s journey, and parted ways when Zama graduated in 2015 while Zondi continued with her’s and graduated in 2016.

In 2017, they were reunited again when Zama decided to further her studies and enrolled into UKZN’s PhD programme – only to find Zondi there as a UKZN staffer also pursuing her doctorate degree. They were now colleagues and study buddies.

Zondi’s PhD thesis was a collaborative journey with her co-researchers in assessing the efficacy of using an Inquiry-Based Learning framework for teaching Geographic Information Systems in a Rural Learning Ecology whilst Zama worked on the Integrated planning of activities using the National Curriculum Framework in Early Childhood Care and Education rural centres.

Zama is currently a lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Zondi a lecturer in Geography.

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