If you ask Edith Phalane to recall her childhood memories, even if you were to shake her from a deep sleep with that question, she would be quick to answer:
“I remember vividly that my mother and uncle instilled in me a sense and love for learning. They would follow me to ensure I did my homework and arrange supplementary study materials to improve my school work. They would meet up with my teachers to follow up on my learning progress.”
She recalls how her parents took a great interest in, and supervised her school work, right from the start until she finished matric. She was really, “blessed to have parents who were concerned about my education.”
“I was encouraged to take education very seriously and follow my dreams. It’s not a fluke or just some luck that I am a PhD student today.”
She is currently doing a PhD in physiology at the North-West University and her research project focuses on studying the cardiovascular health of people living with HIV.
“I work very hard and ensure that I focus on any project I engage in.”
A resident of Leolo village, Thlabine in Ga-Mogoboya, Limpopo, Edith was raised by a single mother. She started school at Mogoboya Primary School and got her matric at Ramoba High School in 2008.
“I still remember the long walks I took to get to school, crossing through rivers and bushes. At that time we had challenges of having few books, so I had to share content books with other learners.”
However, Edith had supportive teachers who encouraged her to follow her dreams.
“We didn’t have a science laboratory, internet access and had a limited number of teachers meaning that we wrote some of our exams without finishing the curriculum. But above all these challenges, I strived to work hard in order to pass my matric so I could go to university to further my studies.”
Her family and teachers were aware that she had wanted to study medicine so they gave her all the moral support they could.
“However, I was heartbroken when my application to study medicine at the university was unsuccessful. As such, I used 2009 to upgrade my math and science grades to increase my chances of entering into medicine.”
In that very year, 2009, she lost her pillar of strength when her mother passed away.
“It was a total nightmare for me to deal with this terrible ordeal. Mom was the main breadwinner in the family and at a certain point I wondered how I was going to continue with my studies.”
In 2010 she was rejected again for entry into medicine despite having improved her marks. Instead, she registered for a BSC in molecular and life sciences at the University of Limpopo.
“With the help of NSFAS I was given an opportunity to further my studies. And my transition from high school to university was not so pleasant; I found myself in a new environment with no friends. I struggled to make friends as I was a shy person but with time I opened up and made friends.”
“I did not know how to use a computer and internet so it was very difficult for me to compile assignments that needed to be typed and sent via email. But I was forced to learn this very fast and I did so by engaging with other students.”
In 2012 she completed her BSc undergraduate degree and registered for an Honours in the same field.
“I was the final year best student for the BSc programme in 2012 and I was awarded for that by the Zoological Society of Southern Africa (ZSSA), Industrial Development Cooperation (IDC) and Biodiversity Student Society: University of Limpopo.”
She earned another degree, a MSc in physiology, from the North-West University, with distinction.
“The Golden Key International Honors Society honored me with a membership to their Society which is based purely on academic merit. I was very proud of myself and had hope to continue with my PhD.”
Edith has received several research awards based on academic merit and she has also attended international conferences in the field of physiology.
She urges youth to follow their dreams and never give up.
“Do not wait for opportunities to be given to you but make opportunities for yourself. In essence, define your own success for yourself and every day work hard to achieve this success.”