PhD graduate highlights human rights issues in her research
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Cape Town – As the University of the Western Cape (UWC) hosts thousands of its students at the Graduation ceremony, the institution honours the achievements of students in all seven faculties while highlighting some of the University's great stories.
For Nigerian-born Oluwafunmilola Adeniyi, the fulfilment that comes with receiving her PhD today is what she’s been waiting for her entire life.
Planting her family roots in Cape Town since 2011, Adeniyi is a passionate advocate for social justice.
“I relocated to South Africa 10 years ago and started my Master of Law (LLM) four years after relocation. I graduated in 2016 and started my PhD in 2017.”
Adeniyi was one of the hundreds of graduates that received their degrees as UWC kicked off their Autumn graduations, which were held virtually.
“As a mum to two young kids, there was a lot of juggling with having to home school kids while writing up my thesis. Given the fact that there was the pandemic, studying during the pandemic was hectic, but I am glad I wrote the majority of my thesis in lockdown because it lessened the distractions.”
Her Master’s focuses on the right to safe food for all in South Africa, while her PhD identified students in tertiary institutions as a vulnerable group, in need of special protection to guarantee their right to food.
“A few months after I registered for my PhD, a student (undergrad) approached me to ask for R10 and explained that she had not had a meal in two days. I took her into the nearest cafeteria and bought a meal for her. That was the beginning of my PhD journey. I needed to understand and challenge why so many of our students on campuses nationwide were hungry and why this should be accepted as part of the ’student experience’ in universities.”
“Funded by the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, the Dullah Omar Institute provided me with the space and support to kick start the Access to food for students project, a national advocacy project to drive policy change on student food insecurity in Tertiary Institutions,” said Adeniyi
While she coordinated this project, her PhD was the research arm of the project.
The Socio-economic Rights Project Project Head at Dullah Omar Institute, Prof Ebenezer Durojaye said that Adeniyi’s study highlighted human rights issues raised by hunger and food insecurity on campuses and the role of different stakeholders such as the government, university administrators and private actors in addressing this challenge.
“Her study recommends a holistic approach to addressing the issue, which must involve students as active participants rather than mere recipients of charity. It's one of the few studies that has addressed this very important and challenging issue.”