Dr Mkhonzeni Gumede, UKZN lecturer in the Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) graduated with his PhD in Media and Communication for investigating lessons learnt from community-led AIDS interventions in a South African context.
He explored community participation in community-led interventions using the Woza Asibonisane Community Responses Project implemented by The Valley Trust organisation in informal settlements and rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal.
For over a decade, Gumede worked in the health communication field implementing health communication programmes and campaigns in South Africa. This is what motivated him to develop his research skills through his PhD and contribute to scholarship in the field of communication for social change.
His study aimed to understand how community-led HIV/AIDS interventions can be improved in the ongoing fight against the disease. He examined lessons learned from AIDS interventions carried out in South Africa as well as strategies used to amplify community voices.
Said Gumede: ‘My findings reveal that funders have predetermined project objectives that make it difficult for communities to lead HIV/AIDS response efforts. Power relations may complicate community participation projects, but they should be considered, planned for, and mitigated.’
Gumede spoke about his unemployment challenges and COVID-19 disruptions which led him to doing consultancy work so he could pay his bills. ‘I was studying full-time, which meant I was unemployed and had no income. I had hoped that a bursary would cover my living expenses while I studied. For students over 40 years of age, these opportunities are rare,’ he said.
Despite these challenges, he admits that him and his wife enrolling for their PhD degrees together was a highlight in his doctoral studies journey. Working as a team, the pair was able to balance school and home duties.
For Gumede, getting his PhD is a final win. ‘I feel as though I have finally removed the monkey on my back…extremely happy to have finally achieved the highest qualification according to the NQF levels.’
Advising students, he said they ‘must stay social and not walk the academic journey alone’, adding that ‘they should walk with their families and their support networks.’
Gumede plans to publish aspects of his PhD and using it to influence the practice in the field of health communication.
A family holiday is on the cards for him to celebrate his academic achievement.