Lulama Ngalo-Morrison, 69, from Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, has graduated with a PhD in education. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams
Lulama Ngalo-Morrison, 69, from Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape, has graduated with a PhD in education. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Goal reached - a PhD at 69 years old

By Naledi Mohono Time of article published Aug 31, 2017

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Cape Town - After five years of pursuing her PhD, 69-year-old Lulama Ngalo-Morrison is now a doctor of education after graduating from UWC.

Ngalo-Morrison describes her achievement as a personal goal she always wanted to do despite her age.

“I have always wanted to do this; it was a personal goal which I never gave up on. You know as women we tend to prioritise other things but I have always wanted to achieve this goal, and eventually I did,” she said.

Ngalo-Morrison had been the executive director of the Old Mutual Education Trust and is passionate about youth empowerment.

Ngalo-Morrison’s thesis was based on the factors that influence academic attainment of financially sponsored South African students in higher education.

“In South Africa, a lot of students struggle with funding and support for their higher education. I wanted to find out how the students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds but received funding from NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) or various bursaries were coping in higher institutions,” she said.

In her PhD thesis, Ngalo-Morrison carves a critical framework which challenges the image in which sponsored students are viewed.

She shifts the focus and gives these students dignity and recognition through her acknowledgement of their academic excellence and resilience despite their backgrounds. She also highlights the university’s responsibility towards the students.

“I wanted to know what makes them resilient and even do so well academically regardless of rare financial support from their families,” Ngalo-Morrison said

Despite her difficult upbringing, her parents tried hard to ensure their daughter went to school, and even though she was in exile, she managed to complete her studies.

“My parents believed education was the only liberation during the Struggle. They believed that we had to work hard and change the future through education.”

Ngalo-Morrison said she was always passionate about education and

always found ways to fit education into her life.

In 1975 she went into exile in Nigeria. She had already obtained her degree in social work at Fort Hare, but the degree meant nothing to her because in Nigeria the people she came across had doctorates and Master’s degrees.

“Seeing other Africans being highly esteemed, highly educated and very confident influenced me to study further.

Being in another African country where black people like me had self-belief and were free made me want to pursue a Master’s, which I did.”

After travelling to other countries, Ngalo-Morrison decided to pursue another Master’s and become an educator.

“I am passionate about disabled children. I can do sign language and I have taught in various institutions for deaf


After many years of travelling, studying and working, Ngalo-Morrison has retired from her work as the executive director of the Old Mutual Education Trust.

She is now a trustee for the Resilience Network, which works with schools from Cape Town townships in order to empower high school pupils to pursue higher education.

“I am very excited about the project. We send other students abroad for mentorship and they come back excited and happy about how the programme has changed their lives.”

Cape Argus

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