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Dr Sipho Mbatha’s bumpy road to Doctorate in Fashion Design started with only R200 in his pocket

Dr Sipho Mbatha, a lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology, made history by being the first TUT student to graduate with a Doctorate in Fashion Design and South Africa's fifth Doctor in Fashion Design. Picture: Supplied.

Dr Sipho Mbatha, a lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology, made history by being the first TUT student to graduate with a Doctorate in Fashion Design and South Africa's fifth Doctor in Fashion Design. Picture: Supplied.

Published Jun 17, 2021

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Johannesburg - The journey of South Africa’s fifth person to qualify with a Doctorate in Fashion Design, Dr Sipho Mbatha, started with about R200 in his pocket.

Mbatha, from the Vaal, has made history by being the first South African from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) to obtain a Fashion Design doctorate. Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa also confirmed on Sunday that Mbatha is South Africa’s fifth doctor in fashion design.

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The 34-year-old lecturer at TUT’s Faculty of the Arts and Design: Department of Design Studies, made history at one of the June graduation ceremonies hosted virtually at the Pretoria campus recently.

Mbatha told The Star on Wednesday that he gets emotional when he thinks about his journey to obtain his doctorate. His university journey started with difficulty, as his mother could not afford to pay for tertiary education after high school.

“When I got accepted into TUT, it was the first time I had ever seen my mother cry because she had nothing to offer me. I left home with practically R200 in my pocket in 2006 when I started this journey,” he said.

The title of his dissertation is “Exploring University-Industry-Government (UIG) research linkages in the clothing manufacturing industry of South Africa”.

Mbatha said the relevance of his study related to current debates on how the South African clothing, textiles, leather and footwear industry can improve its competitive advantage.

He said he was motivated to complete his doctoral studies by his research mentor and supervisor, Professor Anne Mastamet-Mason, who recruited Mbatha to come back to school for his Bachelor of Technology (BTech) in 2009.

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“She indicated that she wanted me to be the first South African to obtain a Doctorate in Fashion Design. I took on her challenge. Through her mentorship and supervision, I passed both my BTech and MTech with distinction,” he said.

Mbatha added that his road to his doctorate was also complicated when he had to juggle his doctoral research and spending quality time with his first-born son.

“I would get emotional in some moments when I questioned if it was worth it to sacrifice my time with my child in pursuing this degree, but looking back, I’m glad I did it like that,” he said.

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