Dr Edith Phalane Defies The Odds To Reach Her Dreams

By Agreement Mabunda​

GA-MOGOBOYA – Born and bred in the rural village of Leolo, Ga-Mogoboya, Thlabine under the Greater Tzaneen Municipality, Dr Edith Phalane is a rural lady of note.

But being a rural lady didn’t stop her to pursue her dreams.

The 30-year-old is a daughter of Masilu Jonathan Botopela and the late Mantsha Maria Phalane. She has two siblings and she is a mother to two amazing children.

Dr Phalane grew up in a family that values and instilled the importance of education from an early age.

“My mother was able to study till university there was no option for me and my siblings to perform any less”.

“I still remember during my matric examination; my mom would take leave from work to be at home so that I could focus on my exams without having to worry about doing household chores, says Dr Phalane.

Not only her parents who played a role to build her education, her uncle, Thibedi Jeremiah Phalane also played a pivotal role in ensuring that she excels in her studies.

“I remember my uncle would pay a visit to my school teachers to get feedback on my school progress and he would make us learn up to the new words from the dictionary to help us improve our English vocabulary”, she says.

She says even after her mother passed on, her uncle and her grandmother continued to hold the knife by the edge and provided for her and her siblings.

They did their best to ensure that they get a good education and ultimately further education at a higher institution of learning.

Dr Phalane did her primary and secondary schooling in Mogoboya Primary and Ramoba Secondary school respectively.

She then furthered her studies at the University of Limpopo doing BSc degree and Honors and at North West University doing (MHSc and PhD in Physiology )

She had curiosity and eagerness when it comes to academics and that is what inspired her to study further till PhD, and as she was exposed to mentors and lecturers called “Dr”, it also triggered her to want to know more about why they are called “Dr” and what did they do to get there.

The motivation to do PhD became more solidified when she was doing MHSc. She had the opportunity to be exposed to research and its impacts.

“Seeing the transformation, the empowerment that was brought by research and science, I knew that this is what I want to do for a living.”

I also recognise the gaps in terms of communicating and translating research outputs into the communities, and these also encouraged and motivated me to pursue a PhD contribute to closing these gaps”, she continued.

She says her research interest is on the cardio-metabolic health of people living with HIV, which also motivated her because she saw the importance of communicating her research to the communities to empower and educate them on how to prevent and manage cardio-metabolic diseases.

Her family laid the best foundation in terms of the importance of education as her strongest influencer. Also, she had role models in the field of discipline that she looked up to and draw inspiration from them.

“As I advanced in my studies, I met my mentor, Prof Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya who continues to inspire me to be the best version of myself”.

“I remember when I first heard of her and her contribution to HIV and non-communication diseases, I was so excited, and I knew I want to learn from her, and be like her. Her work ethic, resilience and dedication inspire and motivate me. She is the best teacher to learn from.” Says Edith.

In 2018, Dr Phalane had the opportunity to present a research paper at the 12th International Symposium on Molecular Diagnostic in Austria, Graz.

It was her first international visit and conference attendance. She won the Best Poster Award for her poster presentation at the conference.

In the same year, she was among the 600 top young scientists in the world that were selected to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings in Lindau, Germany.

“To be among these young scientists, I knew that I was not only a local player but an internal player among my peers”, she said.

She says there have been many proud moments during her career journey, but so far, she is most proud of completing her PhD in Physiology from the North-West University.

It has not been an easy journey, to study full time and being a mother to two children and juggling other aspects of life, she says, but by the grace of God she made it through.

Dr Edith Phalane is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg, Faculty of Health Sciences. Her research focuses on the differential impacts of COVID-19.

She passes her gratitude, appreciation, and acknowledgement to the following:

“I would like to thank my family (my two sisters, my uncle and her wife, my grandmother and Mamokwena Sophia and my children) for their love and support. I would not have done it without their unwavering support”.

“My friends, sisters, and brothers in the Lord, who cheered me all the way and encouraged me to keep on going. My supervisor for my PhD – Prof CMT Fourie, Prof AE Schutte, and Prof CMC Mels for their commitment to the completion of my PhD”.

“Above all, I want to thank God, for there is nothing that I can do without him. Through Hum, I can do all things”, says Edith.

Given is the piece of advice she would like to share with people who are still discovering themselves.

“Do not allow the area of what you are born in or your circumstances to limit you in terms of what you can be and achieve in your lifetime”

“I never allowed the death of my parents and growing up in rural areas to limit me. But I rather used it as a motivation to work hard and step up on the educational ladder so that I can show others that it is possible,” she concluded.


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