Not even Covid-19 could deter this 25-year-old from getting his PhD

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Through hard work and determination, Dr Phemelo Magau graduated with a PhD at the age of 25. Photo: Supplied
Through hard work and determination, Dr Phemelo Magau graduated with a PhD at the age of 25. Photo: Supplied


With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, there were heaps of uncertainty.

However, this did not deter Dr Phemelo Magau from completing his Doctor of Laws (LLD) in Mercantile Law at North West University.

The 25-year-old Magau, who completed an LLD in two years, has been hailed as an inspiration by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

He graduated from North West University in May and is currently a lecturer in the School of Law at UKZN. He says:

I did my PhD during the two years of the pandemic between 2020 and 2021. At the time, there was so much uncertainty.

“There were fears that we might not even be able to complete our PhDs and might die as a result of the pandemic. However, that did not deter my goals even though it was challenging because our movements were restricted and I couldn’t go for normal consultations with my supervisor, Professor Howard Chitimira. I had to do them over the phone,” Magau shared.

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He said completing his PhD in two years came with many sacrifices.

“Through determination and perseverance, I got this at a younger age.

“I am grateful for the consistent support system from my family and Chitimira, who played an important role in my studies and career.”

When asked what inspired him to study law, Magau, who is from Kuruman in the Northern Cape, said it was the plight of those living in rural areas:

I had seen how people from rural areas were struggling when it came to legal assistance and so I had hoped to bring about change in their lives.

It came as no surprise that the title of his PhD thesis was a comparative legal analysis of the promotion of financial education for low-income earners in South Africa.

Through his thesis, Magau explored Covid-19’s unprecedented socio-economic effects on the livelihoods of most of the country’s households. He argued that the current regulatory framework for financial education was not robust enough to adequately promote financial education for low-income earners in South Africa, especially during a crisis such as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

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He said the South African financial sector was becoming more innovative and complicated in terms of offering financial services and products for all consumers, including low-income earners.

“A lack of adequate and appropriate financial education is a serious challenge, particularly for low-income South Africans. This motivated me to focus on the promotion of financial education.”

Magau has also written four journal articles, two book chapters and supervised four master’s students.

He also participated in the annual International Corporate and Financial Markets Law conference last year.

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