College of College of Graduate Studies

Combining forces to tackle the emotional wellbeing of postgrads

The COVID-19 pandemic and recent lockdowns have harmed the academic progression of Unisa’s postgraduate students. The impact extends to the increased attraction experiences in the previous year that may have been caused by slower submission from students.

In noting the emotional impact that COVID-19 has had on postgraduate students, the College of Graduate Studies (CGS), College of Education (CEDU) and Directorate: Counselling and Career Development (DCCD) collaborated on an emotional wellness roundtable discussion.

Dr Sizakele Danke

The discussion was led by Dr Sizakele Danke, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Educational Foundations and research project leader in Researching Widowhood in Southern Africa: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Danke shared her lived experiences on the coping strategies she used after she lost her partner while pursuing her PhD studies. The lessons learnt were shared with the attendees and she explained how they shaped her contribution to her research outputs and community engagement projects.

Danke experienced bullying at work while she was dealing with the loss of her partner and received minimal support when she had work overload. This affected her academic progression and she decided to pen everything down. This resulted in a book chapter for a project headed by Professor Meahabo Magano in CEDU. At the roundtable discussion, students were encouraged to talk about their challenges and to seek help.

Dealing with challenges through counselling

Dr Bunkie Pitsoane, Head of Counselling at the Gauteng Region, presented to postgraduate students a talk on what to do and how to respond when things are not going according to plan. She further reassured the students that Unisa employs professional student counsellors and psychologists who are registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

Interventions to respond to online services were explained and students who needed personal counselling were encouraged to visit the DCCD website ( to book a virtual appointment with a student counsellor on Microsoft Teams. They were encouraged to deal with challenges like trauma, grief, relationship issues, anxiety, stress and financial management that may affect their study progress.

Those who need to arrange counselling for their family members and friends may do so through the Unisa Psychotherapy Clinic in the Department of Psychology ( Students may enquire about research training workshops and related events by emailing M&

*By Tonny Matjila, Training Officer, College of Graduate Studies

** Teaser image: Times Higher Education

Publish date: 2021/07/09