DUMILE Gumede and Lindelwa Sweli at a graduation photoshoot. Image:supplied
DUMILE Gumede and Lindelwa Sweli at a graduation photoshoot. Image:supplied

Mother and daughter graduate together at the University of KwaZulu-Natal

By Harvest Thwala Time of article published Nov 26, 2021

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A special relationship between a mother and daughter came full circle when they shared in each other’s joy as newly conferred graduates of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

UKZN hosted four virtual graduation ceremonies for graduates who completed their studies between April and August. The university conferred a total of 2 042 degree certificates, 1 108 of which was awarded to undergraduate recipients and 934 to postgraduates.

Dr Dumile Gumede and her daughter, Lindelwa Msweli bowed their heads in prayer while watching the UKZN virtual graduation ceremonies yesterday.

Gumede graduated with a PhD in health promotion and Msweli, an MSc in ecological sciences.

Gumede revealed that her journey to her PhD had been long and she had to contend with the difficulties of life as a single mum. At the age of 19, while studying full-time for an undergraduate degree at the then University of Natal, Gumede gave birth to her first-born (Msweli). Despite her best efforts she did not manage to complete her studies in the allocated time and was academically excluded.

“Now that I have come so far in my academic journey, I feel I can truly forgive myself for not having completed my studies all those years ago. There’s no longer a blemish, I achieved my goal in the end.” Gumede said.

Msweli, who also celebrates her birthday this month, says graduating alongside her mother is a blessing from God.

“Everything I am is because of my family; they are a gift from God and no one knows me as well as they do. My mother taught me to be a go-getter and to identify opportunities, and instilled a strong work ethic and resilience,” she said.

For her Master’s degree, Msweli researched the effects of indigenous and exotic Southern African ungulates on seed dispersal and germination of alien invasive fruiting plants. This work filled a gap in knowledge of the dispersal of invasive alien plants by Southern African ungulates.

During her studies, Gumede had a life-changing experience when she was the only undergraduate awarded a fellowship to attend a two-month summer school on survey research techniques at the University of Michigan.

She was later appointed by the Africa Health Research Institute as a field worker in Mtubatuba – the community she lived in for most of her life, and is now lecturing at the Durban University of Technology’s Centre for General Education.

“I enjoy seeing the younger generation critically interrogating who they are and thinking deeply about themselves and what they want to be. My own journey shaped my teaching philosophy and commitment to assisting students to achieve academic success,” Gumede said.

Just like her mom, Msweli is looking forward to her PhD studies in UKZN’s Centre for Functional Biodiversity on the urban ecology of rock hyrax (dassie) in urban areas in KwaZulu-Natal.

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