From dissertation to diapers

14 December 2009

Singumbe Muyeba and Abigail Kabandula with ChristianHappy family: Singumbe Muyeba and Abigail Kabandula with baby Christian.

There were two reasons master's student Abigail Kabandula almost gave up her studies, but it was a life-changing decision to continue

Abigail Kabandula got her MA in Historical Studies the tough way - changing her dissertation topic half way through and becoming a first-time mother.

But this week when she graduates with her hard-won MA in Historical Studies, she will know she has every reason to feel deeply proud.

"My husband, Singumbe Muyeba, and I were married in April 2007, the same month in which we have our birthdays," she says. "One of our agreements before we married was that we should both do our master's degrees. We saved up, and also applied for scholarships. The University of Zambia, where we did our undergraduate studies, didn't have what we wanted to do at master's level.

The couple applied to universities in England, the US and at UCT and Rhodes in South Africa.

"When we received our acceptances without scholarships, we had to choose where we would get the best possible education for the value of the finances we had. UCT won hands down, and it was also closer to home in Zambia."

But so much for the best laid plans of mice and men ...

"I had started working on my dissertation early; but halfway through, in about June, my supervisor and I discovered that we couldn't continue on that topic and he couldn't supervise any of the other suggestions I made," Kabandula said.

"It was such a discouraging time. I had to start looking for another topic and supervisor. That's how I joined Associate Professor Anne Mager's customary law project."

But in February the couple heard Kabandula was expecting a baby.

"We were happy, but also felt it was not a good time because we were not financially stable and I didn't think I could go through the stress of academic work, financial stress and being pregnant. I almost quit, but my husband and supervisor encouraged me and told me I could do it."

Even fatigue couldn't hold her back and she finally submitted her dissertation on 17 July this year.

"Two months later, on 21 September, our handsome son, Christian, was born, and I was told that I had passed my dissertation. It was a great day!"

Kabandula also holds a BA in Education, with majors in English and history.

Muyeba graduated in June with an MPhil in Development Studies, and holds a BA in Public Administration and Development Studies. He has just started his PhD.

UCT is "a great place to study", says Kabandula.

"The diversity is awesome, and the opportunities for study are overwhelming. Also, opportunities to develop other areas of your life are endless."

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