School of Built Environment & Development Studies

PhD Study Highlights Various Aspects of Motherhood


Several facets of parenthood were captured through research that investigated delicate matters of motherhood, mainly, the impact of both present and absent biological mothers on young mothers in Africa.

Dr Thobelani Majola, who has earned the highest postgraduate degree (PhD), examined socio-cultural views about motherhood and the maternal presence or absence among young African mothers. ‘This study looked at how having biological mothers who are both present and absent affects young mothers’ experiences and perspectives of parenthood,’ she said.

Through her research, Majola has discovered that factors such as death, marriage, female labour migration, and education are identified as the root causes of mother absence. Adding to this are high unemployment rates in South Africa that have led some women to settle for informal employment, especially those from poor socio-economic backgrounds, to provide financial support for their children.

Despite minor setbacks as a result of lack of participation from a few young mothers because of discomfort, Majola expressed gratitude to her participants for the completion of the study, saying, ‘It truly does seem like a dream come true to have finally achieved a PhD.’

She is proud of herself for persevering and being resilient despite facing numerous challenges; also praising her supervisor, Professor Pranitha Maharaj, for her support. Noting the sacrifice that goes into completing doctoral studies, Maharaj said, ‘I commend Thobelani for her diligence, dedication and strong work ethic.’

Majola recounts her PhD journey as a solo trip, which would however not have been successful without the support of her family and friends. She also acknowledged her self-motivation during the process as it was challenging for their family to understand the long journey.

Offering words of encouragement to her peers, she said: ‘You will never be granted an opportunity that is beyond your capabilities. You will succeed if you push through the toughest days. Always establish a strategy for your study with goals and take each day as it comes.’

Majola is currently seeking employment in a public institution or university where she can contribute to the lives of diverse individuals.

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