Hot Cares Christmas – PhD Student Gets to Complete Her Studies and Make Mom Proud!

Hot Cares Christmas – PhD Student Gets to Complete Her Studies and Make Mom Proud!

It’s always nice when you come across someone who goes out of their way to look out for someone else, and that’s the case with all our Hot Cares Christmas stories.

It really does restore your faith in humanity and that’s definitely the case with Professor Donald Cowan at the University of Pretoria.

He took the trouble to tell us about one of his Microbiology PhD students, Semakaleng Florina Munyai, who everyone calls ‘Smaka’.

“She’s in real financial trouble,” said Prof Cowan, who proceeded to tell us how Smaka had a three-year bursary to support her PhD studies, with the bursary designed to support a student’s living costs and university registration.

“She started her PhD in 2018 and was making good progress when Covid-19 closed the university and the laboratory,” said Prof Cowan. “She was unable to do much work through 2020 and 2021, and her bursary ran out at the end of 2020. Since then, she has been surviving, I believe, by borrowing money.”

Smaka now owes over R25 000 and only survives by the grace of others, but this is only just covering her bills and doesn’t solve the debt issue.

Prof Cowan was able to arrange a small weekly allocation to help Smaka out with groceries, whilst she has worked every job she could find on campus, but that hasn’t been enough to clear her debt.

“Living with a big debt is a huge psychological burden, but if she can keep it all together, she will finish her lab work in the next few months, write up her thesis in the first quarter of next year, and hopefully graduate in September,” said Prof Cowan.

Smaka is the first one in her family to have the chance to graduate from university and her mother back in Limpopo is her biggest cheerleader. Mom turns 70 next year and nothing would make her prouder than seeing her daughter graduate.

“Smaka is one of the many genuine cases of people in need, and any contribution would help a deserving young woman to achieve her potential,” said Prof Cowan. “With a PhD in hand she becomes very employable, with a successful career stretching out ahead of her.”

That was good enough for Hot Cares and we just love stories where we can play at least some part in someone realising their potential and going on to provide for themselves, sustainably.

That’s why Hot Cares will be stepping in to donate R35 000 to cover Smaka’s outstanding student fees and monthly expenses for the next few months, so that she can finish her thesis!

We hope that goes some way to making this a little more enjoyable Christmas for Smaka.