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13 December 2019
Excellence celebrated at UWC’s December graduation

(Published - 13 December 2019)

Friday the 13th is generally considered unlucky by the superstitious, but for 744 students at the University of the Western Cape, it is one of the happiest days of their lives.

The University conferred 16 doctorates, 74 Master’s degrees, 10 honours degrees, 403 undergraduate degrees and 241 diplomas and certificates. In total, the University conferred just under 5 000 degrees, diplomas and certificates in 2019.

During today’s ceremonies, UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, commented on the pride, joy and excitement on the faces of students and parents as their journey ended in success.

He said, “Graduation is about celebrating the successful completion of your academic endeavours that has meant many years of hard work, commitment and dedication. Being here today means that you have made the right and best choices about your all our graduands – congratulations and well done.

“To the parents, guardians and loved ones here – our deep appreciation for standing by and supporting our students. We will not know many of the extreme sacrifices that you have had to make to ensure that this graduation happens. We thank you for supporting our students and offer our congratulations,” said Prof Pretorius.

For many students, like social worker Johan Fourie, obtaining their degrees came with years of sacrifice and unwavering determination. He forfeited his studies to care for his mother who was diagnosed with cancer. When he returned to the University, he discovered that he had cancer too. 

Fourie, who was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia in May this year, graduated cum laude in social work.

“It was very important to me and a major accomplishment because I come from a home where the highest qualification for my parents was Grade 3. I value the opportunity to become a qualified social worker and to be able to serve communities around the country with grace, compassion and empathy,” said Fourie.

Janke Jacobs graduated with a degree in dentistry. It was not an easy journey for her either. Her dream of becoming a dentist hung in the balance when she contracted ocular tuberculosis in her second year of study. She had to retrain her eyes and learn how to be patient with herself. Today, completely recovered, she looks back at her experience and with an intense sense of accomplishment.

“I remember my ophthalmologist telling me about the odds of me still being able to see being equal to the odds of winning a billion rand in the lottery, but the results showed that the scarring in my eyes missed the ‘focus’ area of my right eye by micrometers. I am forever thankful for the fact that I have finished my degree. It took blood, sweat and a lot of tears, but now I will be starting the new year as Dr Jacobs,” she said with great excitement.

“The experience made me more of a well-rounded human being and practitioner. It taught me persistence and patience.I know now what it feels like being in a miserable and demotivated patient’s shoes, and how complex it can be to treat someone holistically.”


For some students, education is a lifelong journey. Nita Lawton-Misra received her PhD in Educational Psychology for her research into the leadership crises universities experienced during the #FeesMustFall movement. A registered psychologist with a University Diploma in Education, a Diploma in Specialised Education, a BA (Education and Psychology), BEd Degree (UNISA) and an MEd, she serves on the board of the Council of Higher Education - and also happens to be UWC’s Registrar.

“I was the first person in my entire extended family and community to attend a university, and that is what gave me the edge in life,” she says. “All I have achieved in my life is due to that decision - and I hope my example allows others to see the value of lifelong education. It's all about creating the correct balance and prioritising values.”

UWC Chancellor, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba - who celebrated his birthday and wedding anniversary on Friday - said: “You have already proven that you have what it takes. You have worked hard, and have achieved. Each one of you now has the potential to become a great change agent in your sphere of influence in our societies. You can seize  the most exciting opportunities and address the world’s biggest challenges.”

This year, UWC has been acknowledged several times as one of the world’s premier teaching and research institutions. The University was recently ranked among the top 1,000 international institutions in the QS World University Rankings, and it’s also the only South African university to have been ranked among the world’s top 200 higher education institutions in the very first Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2019.


Research from some of the students include:





Incorporating Mental Arithmetic into Primary School Mathematics: A case of Oshana Region, Namibia 

Frans N. Haimbodi conducted a critical exploratory study on the mathematics strategies of teachers and learners in Namibian primary schools, focusing on mental computation strategies. Theoretically, the study is situated within Critical Mathematics Education and Realistic Mathematics Education. A mixed method design was used. The findings suggest that there is a need to focus also on alternative computational strategies.


Understanding the democratization process in the Middle East and North Africa after “Arab spring” the case of Libya

This thesis explores the prospects of democratisation in one of the countries that underwent dramatic changes during the Arab Spring. Through extensive interviews with students and lecturers at three universities in the major regions of Libya-Tripoli, Benghazi and Sabha, the thesis illuminates how some Libyans understand the major challenges they currently face politically. The thesis then offers an innovative theorisation of how democratisation in Libya would have to contend with the region’s history, and particular forms of cultural and religious practices, if it is to transcend its current fragmentation and drift toward a renewed form of authoritarian and militarised rule.


Facilitating Intra-Regional Trade through the Movement of People in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) 

Intra-regional trade, promoting economic growth, forms part of Africa’s plan for economic development. Countries need to adopt measures to ensure integration, inclusive of the movement of goods, people and services. This thesis argues for deeper integration by safeguarding the movement of persons in the SADC. Deeper integration is undermined by unsuccessful safeguarding attempts, such as the failed Protocol on the Free Movement of People and the unratified Facilitation Protocol. Looking at measures of the ECOWAS, the East African Community and the EU, all of whom have achieved noticeable results, this thesis argues towards a gradual, comprehensive and flexible approach, taking into account economic and political differences, for a successful deeper regional integration through the movement of people.


Species recognition and reproductive isolation in Malawi cichlid fish, Metriaclima estherae and M.callainos (Teleostei: Cichlidae)

Cichlid fish of the Great Lakes of Africa represent one of nature’s grand experiments in evolution. The fish within these lakes have diverged into hundreds of species over an unusually short period of time. This incredible diversity has puzzled evolutionary biologists and attracted intense global research interest. Female preferences for male breeding colouration are believed to be the main driver of diversification; however, this process is not fully understood. This study used a combination of behavioural and genetic techniques to investigate the effects of multiple cues on mating preferences in two closely related species from Lake Malawi, providing new insights into this fascinating system.


Physical activity and non-communicable disease risk factors: knowledge and perceptions ofyouth in a low resourced community in the Western Cape

Master’s: Cum Laude


Exploring the lived experiences of individuals in a substance abuse treatment programme in Cape Town



Exploring the role of the parent in the aftercare of adolescents who participated in treatment programmes for substance abuse



Evaluating the impact of social grants on food security and poverty alleviation in South Africa