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This article was written by Daniel Bugan and originally published here on 30.03.2021

​When meeting Dumisani Hompashe and listening to his story, the word “resilience” automatically comes to mind. Because resilience is the silver thread running through his entire life, from his childhood to his part-time PhD studies in Economics at Stellenbosch University (SU).

Photo credit: Stefan Els

Hompashe, who received his doctoral degree at SU’s March 2021 graduation recalls: “Growing up, my parents could not afford to buy us toys, so we had to be creative and make our own toys, such as wire cars and so forth. I was never satisfied with my circumstances, and always found a way to improve my situation.”

Later on, that same resilience saw him qualify as a teacher and move into education management. He then developed an interest in economics and enrolled for part-time studies, which culminated in a master’s degree in Economics at Rhodes University. “The shift to economics came fairly natural because of my background in education in South Africa, which has a history of inequality. I had always been intrigued by why we had these inequalities, so I decided to study economics to get a broader understanding of the issue,” he explains his decision to switch disciplines.

Hompashe’s PhD focused on service delivery and accountability in the education and healthcare sectors in South Africa. He says studying at SU was very rewarding. He is especially grateful to his PhD supervisors, Prof Servaas van der Berg and Dr Anja Smith of SU’s Department of Economics, for their support.

“The Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP) unit headed by Prof Van der Berg was very accommodating. I was always invited to attend seminars, workshops and conferences, which in a way helped me get better acquainted with my research topic.”

Having obtained his PhD, this lecturer at Fort Hare University says he has a number of new goals lined up. “The most important is to establish a research unit at Fort Hare to study the areas of health and education. I also want to develop young people to join the unit and collaborate with the national departments of Health and Education, conducting research on topical issues of concern in those departments.

“I also have plans to convert some of my research into papers to be published in peer-reviewed journals, and to apply for grants that would enable me to focus on bigger research projects in which I can involve my students as well.”

Hompashe grew up in Mount Coke near King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. While they did not have much, he credits his father, a factory worker, for providing for the family, and his mother for teaching him a sound work ethic. “My father used to give me pocket money to buy lunch at school. I think it was about 3c a day. When I came back from school, my mother would always check my books and encourage me to do my homework. They both played a very important role in my education.”

But he reserves the biggest praise for his wife and children, who were “very supportive and understanding when I had to go to Stellenbosch for my studies, sometimes for a week at a time”.​