College of Human Sciences

Find your voice and work hard to be heard

The Department of Communication Science in the College of Human Sciences has celebrated yet another one of its staff member’s academic achievements. Linah Nokubonga Nkuna recently graduated with a master’s degree in communication and media Studies at the University of Johannesburg.  

She speaks here about her academic journey.

Q: Tells us about yourself?

A: I joined the Department of Communication Science at Unisa, as a lecturer in media studies in April 2017. Previously, I was a junior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg at the communication and media studies department. My love for academia began during my first postgraduate year in 2014, when I was a BA (Hons) Communication theory student at the University of Johannesburg. During that year, I was required to write an essay on Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the oppressed and we had to relate it to a South African communication context. This was by far one of the most interesting essays I had to write. Studying the relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor, the notion of the other and how the oppressed tend to respond to their oppressors was what fascinated me and encouraged me to read more about the ways in which the citizens of South Africa can participate in order to bring change to their everyday reality.

Q: How does it feel to be an MA graduate?

A: Totally amazing, but it does not stop here. I want to see myself wearing that red academic gown.

Q: What was the main objective of your study?

A: My masters  study  was  about  a  phenomenon  observed  in  many  poor  South  African  communities, commonly  known as service delivery  protests.  The purpose of the study was to put one set of normative claims on the one hand, against another underrepresented set on the other.  The study set  the  claims  made  in  a  selection  of  mainstream  South  African  and international  media  about service  delivery  protests against the claims  made  by  those from  poor  communities  (abahlali) regarding  their  own  lives  and  actions.  

To  a  certain  extent,  South  Africa’s  mainstream  media  coverage  of  service  delivery protests  follows  the  “if  it  bleeds,  it  leads” formula.  Often, reporters only cover the eruption of violence and chaos.  There is no before or after, rather, there is a succession of action sequences incorporating movie style images of angry people, blocked roads, and burning tyres.  That  is,  the media  often  focuses  on  episodic  framings of  the violent and disruptive nature  of  protests, with very little context .

The study argued that there seems to be a single story of what a service delivery protest is, a story perpetuated in scholarly literature and repeated by mainstream media.  The study aimed to cover the gap by using the stories of protesters themselves to introduce a new layer of complexity to how we ordinarily interpret service delivery protests. The future of the South African polity may depend on how well, how far, and how much untold stories get to be told.

Q: What motivates you to work extra mile?

A: I believe that this is what I'm supposed to be doing and what I've been called to do. It is all that makes sense to me. Paulo Freire says “apart from inquiry, apart from praxis, individuals cannot be truly human”. This is also my philosophy; unless we question, we cannot fully grow or change the world around us.

Q: Were there any obstacles that you needed to overcome while working on your master’s?

A: I would not say that it was an obstacle but in the beginning of my data collection process, I got discouraged because the protesters were not as welcoming as I had initially anticipated. As time passed, I got to know them and they began opening up to me. Though there was a lot I had to change before it got to this point – I had to change the way I dress, I had to start eating what they ate and had to speak like they did. This was the greatest moment of my study, bitter in the beginning because I went home always complaining about how the protesters do not want to take part in my study whereas all they needed was a person that was willing to see who they really were, not someone that appears to be above them but someone that understands where they are coming from. So you can say impatience was my biggest obstacle, I tend to want things to work out fast and sometimes things do not work out that way.

Q: What advice can you offer to those who are still busy with their master’s?

A: Find your voice and work hard to be heard.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: I am a registered PhD candidate at the University of Johannesburg. I've recently published an article on The Conversation Africa. I am also busy with two other academic articles that I am hoping to have published before the end of 2017.

Q: Any words of wisdom you would like to share with us?

A: Always start to finish and finish well, but do not forget to have fun every now and then.

* Submitted by Jabulani Nkuna, Janette Hanekom, Elnerine Greeff and Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester