Teacher says ‘seize opportunities’ as she heads abroad for PhD

A local woman, who has been awarded a four-year scholarship to study for her PhD in education abroad, has urged other women to “seize opportunities” to achieve their goals.

Thandeka Sibiya (38) has tendered her resignation as an English teacher at Sobantu Secondary School to pursue her doctoral studies at the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, financed by the Tempus Public Foundation.

The passionate teacher, who is also a mother of two teenage girls, said through her job she had assumed a parent role in many aspects of her life and despite having resigned to further her education, she will continue as a mother and teacher at heart.

Sibiya said she came across the scholarship while scrolling through Facebook.

“I don’t just use Facebook to communicate with friends but I also look for opportunities. When I came across the scholarship application I wasn’t entirely sure if it was legit or not so [I] started doing research and made a few calls. I found that the organisation offering the scholarships was affiliated with the South African Department of Education so I went ahead and applied last year.”

She said the selection process was long and included written tests, Skype­ interviews and health screenings, but throughout the process she was positive that she’d make the cut.

“I was so touched when Dr Aditya Purmasir from Northdale Hospital offered to do our health tests for free. He said that was his investment in education,” said Sibiya.

She received her acceptance and confirmation letter from the university on August 10. She said she had mixed feelings about going to study abroad as she has to leave her family behind. Her programme will start on September 9, and she will be studying towards a PhD in Education focusing on teacher education and professional development. “I will explore ways in which teachers can fit into the global context as we know that we are experiencing issues like migration and globalisation and the world is getting smaller and smaller.”

Sibiya said she recently attended a gathering of women and was taken aback by how women were criticising men and blaming them for their problems. “I know most of the predicaments women find themselves in are mostly motivated by men but you can’t live on that. You need to rise above that and find ways to escape ... Opportunities don’t come to you, you have to get up and look for them,” she said. “For me nothing is as important as education. Education is key and nobody can ever take education away from you, it is your everlasting investment.”

Sibiya’s eldest daughter, Nqobile (15), said she was sad her mother would be going away but was inspired by her passion for education.

“For me nothing is as important as education. Education is key and nobody can ever take education away from you, it is your everlasting investment.”