Before coming to London to work as a social worker, I was a social worker in South Africa and have been keen to do some research to help me better understand some of the problems of the people I was helping. So when a friend told me about OU research scholarships, I decided to apply.
I had already applied to a couple of other universities, but the application processes were really tedious – the OU process by comparison was not only very straightforward but also very interesting.
The OU really encourages you to think in detail about the study you want to do and focus on your reasons for doing it. In my job I am very concerned at the number of children I see who had been sexually abused as pre-schoolers, so my research reflects that.
I came to Milton Keynes to study and prepare my research but then returned to South Africa to do my fieldwork.
The OU has been fantastic – I have two internal supervisors from the OU and one external supervisor from the Infant Trust, which is based in the UK and operates in South Africa, so I am getting lots of help in both countries.
My supervisors, as well as being very supportive and helping my study, have also helped me, through the conference the OU funded, to access various charities, organisations and government departments in South Africa to help my research. This enabled a collaborative effort between the OU, Infant Trust, University of Limpopo in South Africa and Child Line Limpopo to organise a conference in South Africa with several representatives from these and other bodies – something which would just not have been possible without the help from the OU.
This obviously helps my research and ultimately my PhD, but more importantly it helps me make organisations aware of the problems of the children I am ultimately trying to help.
Even when I am in South Africa I am in constant email and telephone contact with my UK-based supervisors and they have also been out to South Africa to support me as I presented the conference paper and to identify a possible external supervisor in South Africa. The OU is a great place to learn. The staff and supervisors are fantastically helpful – they really listen and respond. But they also encourage students to make their own networks with other students and professionals, which helps the learning process even more.
Kgauhelo Lekalakala, South Africa. PhD: Child sexual abuse in preschool children in South Africa.