Africa’s Youngest Female PhD Holder: Musawenkosi Saurombe


Born in Zimbabwe and raised in Gaborone, Botswana, 23-year-old Musawenkosi Donia Saurombe recently made history when she became youngest woman in Africa to get a Ph.D without a single correction. This however, almost didn’t happen as she faced many challenges.
She obtained her Ph.D from the North West University Mafikeng campus and received a personal congratulatory message from the university’s leadership on her achievement.

Her thesis is titled “Management Perspectives on a Talent Value Proposition for Academic Staff in a South African Higher Education Institution” and can be found on the SA Journal of Human Resource Management wesbite.
Growing up, Musawenkosi  had always shown signs of being a bright student. She was home-schooled by her mother from the age of three and began her preparatory schooling, known as “standard zero”, at the age of four in 1998 at Phakalane English Medium Primary School. She completed standard two in 2000 and transferred to Legae Primary English Medium School in 2001 where she enrolled for standard three, but promoted to standard four in the second term of the same year.
Musawenkosi enrolled for secondary school education in 2005 at Legae Academy and was part of the first group of students to be promoted from form two to form four in 2007 and completed her secondary schooling in 2009.
And she is the first to admit that it took a lot of psyching up to navigate through social pressures and to achieve. “If I had listened to what people will say about my age, gender or race, I would not have taken some of the steps that I took.
“My father had to sell his car, just to get me through my third year of study and also the general social challenges, usually being the youngest in my class,” she told the News24 Beautiful News page.
She entered varsity at the age of 15, at 19 she attained her first degree and moved on to graduate studies.
‘I never thought I will be the youngest woman to have a PhD in Africa. I never thought that at the age of 23, I will have a PhD in industrial psychology,’ she added.
She left her native Zimbabwe purposefully to pursue tertiary education. The North-West University, one of South Africa’s largest varsities, became her home. Today the institution shares the light of giving birth to Africa’s youngest PhD holder.

She is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher. ‘What motivates me is my responsibility to be good to others. I am currently working as a post-doctoral researcher and youth activist – ensuring that others can reach their interests and their goals’.
Advice to young people
“As young people, it is very important to accrue the right character traits, don’t let anyone tell you that you are substandard, under par or unworthy of having a dream, so be daring be bold and be aggressive in your pursuit of success.”
Musawenkosi would like other young girls across the continent to draw strength and encouragement from examples in the field such as herself.
“What I would like other young women to learn from my experience is that we are powerful in our own right and we do not need validation from men or any human being for that matter. For as long as you are in pursuit of the purpose that God has assigned over your life, then you are bound to excel,” she starts off, adding that too many young women have demeaned and reduced themselves to living in the shadows of men while they have been called to shine and soar.

“It is time young women embrace their power and wield it to make a difference in their spheres of influence. Being powerful does not however mean that one necessarily has to be better than someone else, but is rather about setting your own goals and standards so that you become your own competition. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for the dreams that you pursue, but you owe it to yourself to be great and most of all to God for giving you a space to inhabit here on Earth.”
And what does a Ph.D holder who has just completely shattered the glass ceiling do after such a feat? Well, for Musawenkosi, the hard work continues.
“I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow and this means more and more research and publication, etc. However, I’m now doing this on a more professional career-oriented basis in preparation for a possible full time academic career. I’m now giving academia a trial run and if I like it, there will be no stopping me. If not, I believe God always has Greater heights for us to conquer.”

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