First Motswana Sister to earn a PhD
History was made on December 14 when Sr Macdelyn Mosalagae SC walked in ceremonial graduation to the podium of the University of the Witwatersrands in Johannesburg to be awarded a doctoral qualification in Education as a completion of her PhD studies.
By Sr Phatsimo V Ramokgwebana SC – Sr Dr Mosalagae, a member of a local congregation of the Sisters of Calvary in the diocese of Gaborone, Botswana, is the first Motswana religious Sister to have received a PhD in the Diocese of Gaborone.
She is currently a lecturer at Gaborone Technical College where she works with youth with disabilities. For more than ten years she has worked with incarcerated members of society in first offenders men’s prison. Offering pastoral care, including teaching catechism, conducting priestless services and psycho-social support, and teaching about restorative justice.
She said it was achieving her Master’s degree in Glasgow, Scotland, encouraged her to pursue a PhD. She saw many young people at age 24 pursuing their PhD and felt much motivated as she realised the possibility that she can do it too.
“That is when I made an oath to myself that with my excellent distinctive result, I am actually capable. Another thing was that I wanted to carry on with my research and wanted to come with something new for my country.”
Similarly, she said, “acquiring this PhD, means that am an inclusive and above all a paedagogical-content knowledge specialist who would want to add more value to the marginalised individuals.”
As a religious woman, her doctorate means a great empowerment to practice her charism well in line with advocating for those marginalised in the church, as well as within the congregation, she said. “Exclusion comes in many forms: it can be excluding another Sister by disregarding her views and not recognition her potentials.” As an advocacy to inclusion, “I would work towards uplifting other Sisters and help them to be and do what they have reason to value in order to live a content and happy religious vocation,” Sr Mosalagae said.
Education helps one to see life through a different lens, it broadens an individual’s intellect and opens doors for better things — especially the value of agency. So it starts with an individual to acquire what they value as individuals. A word to a hopeless young person out there who does not value education as the major factor that shapes one’s future, Sr Mosalagae is determined to encourage this young person to have resiliency.
Of course, the challenge right now for every person would be where to find a job? However, she emphasised that “with education you don’t need to find a job; you create one. The value of going through this education is for self-independence and self-development.”
Sr Mosalagae is determined to implement the recommendations from the research. One way of doing so is by coming up with educational pathways that promote what people value and want to do. The emphasis, however, would not be on grade-based education but rather an outcome based on human development.
The year 2020 has been an extraordinary year of suffering due to Covid-19 which has caused forced isolation and exclusion. But at the same time, it should be seen as an eye-opener to alternative ways of learning. “What needs to be done is the shift from classroom-based learning to distance-learning, where one can learn at own pace and time. While this had a disadvantage of social exclusion as children learn better with others and that schools provide such places where diversity in learning and social development. What can be done now is for all governments, NGOs, Churches and individuals to establish technological ways of learning, as this is appropriate in the digital era,” Sr Mosalagae suggested.
She hopes that her experience might inspire others to pursue post-graduate studies. “I have acquired this degree and it could be an inspiration especially to the young ones. However, I would advise: don’t just want to be like me! Rather learn what you can learn from my experience and set goals for yourself that are realistic and put up measures in place on how you are going to achieve this as an individual.
“With a good crowd and support from the people who are for you, you can succeed. But being what you would want to be and do in life as an individual needs God. So I would say for those who have been with me in this journey: God will reward you abundantly; it is beyond me.”
Sr Mosalagae’s doctoral thesis is based on “Capabilities approach to an African inclusive education in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Botswana”. The aim was to come up with a contextualised inclusive education concept that is relevant to Botswana.
The study used two theories, the African philosophy of Botho and the Capabilities approach. She argues that the capabilities approach implies in-depth criticism of the domineering approaches of economy and development policies and offers an alternative vision of what quality of life means and the well-being of people and societies. Hence, the African philosophy of Botho was instrumental in arguing for recognition of African epistemologies that helps in understanding how an African inclusion might look like.